When we’re are on the verge of losing something or someone, our bodies sometimes react to that fear. This is called anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is an extremely strong emotion, so it is important to understand what it is and how it presents itself.

What is Anticipatory Grief?

Defined a grief that occurs before a certain loss, anticipatory grief is a powerful emotional reaction. This does not always occur in relation to an impending death, it can also result from a friend moving away, a relationship teetering on the brink of break up, financial changes, or the loss of dreams coming true.

In the case of death, anticipatory grief commonly occurs when a patient enters hospice or is told that they only have so many days, weeks, or months to live. Knowing that we are going to lose something is sometimes as powerful as actually losing it.

What Are the Symptoms of Anticipatory Grief?

Anticipatory grief is similar to grief that occurs after a death, but typical symptoms include sadness and tears, fear of death and changes that may result, irritability and anger, loneliness and feelings of isolation, and even a desire to communicate with someone who understands. Anxiety can also present itself, which has symptoms of shaking, tremulousness and palpitations itself. Guilt, intense concern for the person dying, and fear of loss may also occur. In terms of physical problems, you may also experience a difficulty sleeping, nausea, and memory loss.

Does Anticipatory Grief Affect the Grieving Process?

Unfortunately, grief before a death does not mean that you will not grieve or that you will have an easier time after the loss occurs.  There is no set timeframe for grief and even if you know the loss is coming, there is nothing you can do to truly prepare yourself for the loss of a loved one.

What to Remember When Dealing with Anticipatory Grief

In order to combat anticipatory grief, there are some things to keep in mind. First, you must accept and understand that anticipatory grief is normal and that you are not alone in feeling it. It is also important to acknowledge the losses and be okay with the fact that you are experiencing grief even though the person has not passed on. Keep in mind that anticipatory grief doesn’t necessarily mean that you are giving up on the person, but you should be reflecting on and making the most of the time that you have left with that person.


As you are working through your emotions, remember that anticipatory grief is normal. Just be sure that whether you are in anticipatory grief or grief, you are still taking care of yourself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *