Anticipatory Grief and the Open Heart

Many of us are aware that grief is a normal part of every loss we experience, but does grief only occur after the loss? Anticipatory grief is the form of grief that occurs when one is confronted with a chronic or life threatening illness or when one anticipates the death of a loved one (or oneself). Anticipatory grief does not substitute, or necessarily lessen, grief that occurs after the death. It is not simply grief pushed ahead in time. Please utilize this discussion group to share your thoughts and feelings.

Anticipatory Grief and the Open Heart

Postby mary+m2 » Fri Apr 10, 2015 11:30 am

I recall my family's varying responses to the terminal diagnosis of my husband. There was no hope: we decided to live each day with as much gratitude as possible. During those 15 months, I grieved the loss of parts of him, parts of our marriage, and parts of our family ... the way things "used to be"... as the cancer won the war in his brain. Anticipating the loss, some family members decided that the person he was "wasn't" any more, and they cut off the relationship and stiffened in his presence. Others distracted themselves with the miracle search. Others gave into addictions. Others said it hurt too much to be around him. There are many ways we behave when faced with the idea of loss. These are just a few. Me, one of my favorite fallbacks was the "to-do" list and keeping ahead of his medical needs. Busy. I'd like to think I was more present. Fear does that to all of us. It distances us from pain and people. And anticipating his death prepared no one for the actuality of his "goneness" and the hole it left in each and every heart. When I reflect on anticipatory grief, I'd like to turn the idea around and learn to be present to the loved one whose being is terminal. How much richer the time would have been had our hearts been more open and less fearful, less anticipatory.
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