Mental Health, Wellness / Self-Care

Anticipation grief is a real thing, here’s a breakdown

Grief before the grief.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Apr 29, 2022

Navigating the different levels of grief is extremely difficult and there is no textbook formula to go about it. This is true for both the person grieving and the people close to them that are trying to help or bear some of the weight for them. Grief can come in many forms as well: you could mourn the loss of a person, mourn a broken relationship whether it’s a friendship or romance, or mourn a past career or hobby that you used to find solace in. 


And while grieving your whole life can feel like it’s being blown up and at times, you can feel like there is no escaping the sinking feeling you feel. Oftentimes people state that grief seasons are the darkest they’ve been in, experiencing a range of emotions from anxiety, distress, loss of motivation, depression, and denial. For others, they find distractions to lose themselves in and prevent them from going to this dark place. Regardless of how they handle it, there is no doubt that it is difficult. Difficult to go through and difficult to see. 


In many cases grief is experienced after a traumatic event in someone’s lives. However, there is also a thing called anticipatory grief, or the feelings and thoughts before the heavy moment actually takes place. It’s quite literally the anticipation of loss. You essentially see all the signs and side effects of an event or loss of person and you predict that it is going to turn into a total loss — you predict grief is coming. 


For example, you might be getting into weekly fights with your partner or best friend and you see it going down a very dark road. You might try to hold onto the relationship or you might just see it through for months and predict how it will end. The feelings that usually come up during this pre-grief stage is resentment for the person or thing, or even the people around you that seem to be happy and aren’t affected with what’s going on in your life. 


With resentment for the people around you, you might also feel isolated — like you are the only person having a hard time or going through a dark season. Then comes the intense anger for the situation you are in. This could eventually affect your physical body with body aches, headaches, weight gains or losses, and general word vomit for the situation to anyone that will listen to you. You might also start feeling numb to the pain and fall into unhealthy patterns (drinking, binge eating, etc) as a result of it. 


So how do you manage all these emotions or even prevent anticipatory grief? Sadly, there isn’t totally a way to prevent it or manage it. You kind of need to sort out your best strategy. We do however have tips. You can keep a journal and write out your feelings there. This is sometimes important if you feel like you don’t have a support system or that the people you are speaking to don’t fully grasp the gravity of your feelings. Writing it down in an abyss might make you feel like someone is listening. Writing also makes things real and if you are dealing with denial this is especially important in your process. 


And speaking of a support system, you can also find a support group to join where you can get professional help and an organized way of dealing with the grief. These experts have the tools and education to help you get back on the right path and all the time to focus on you. Just remember grief is something you should not make a deadline too. You should allow yourself all the time to get through it and realize it is not an overnight thing. 


If watching television is a way you process grief and you’re on the fence about getting help, maybe Ted Lasso can help you take that leap.