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

When you think about grief, your mind probably doesn’t travel to the happiest place. Grief is often what we feel in times of intense loss or upsetting times. Large, drastic changes sometimes cause us to grieve. After all, the symptoms of grief include anxiety, disbelief, distress, loss of motivation, and denial. It’s a heavy emotion, and one we all experience from time to time. Like most, it’s also a complex emotion. It can happen after a heavy event, but even before—this is called anticipatory grief.


What is anticipation grief?

Anticipatory grief is what people feel in the heavy moments before a loss. When loss is predicted, it’s a normal thing to feel. The important thing to remember is that there’s ways to cope with it. Like stated before, it’s what you feel before an unavoidable loss. For instance, if you know a loved one will die soon, it’s that unknown period.


This is one type of grief, but there are a couple differences in this type of grief that gives it its own definition. One of the biggest, is knowing that the loss is imminent. The loss is known, so a person might be grieving for weeks or months ahead. They may feel more alone because the support a person would have after the situation isn’t there. As a result, a common symptom is feeling resentment because others are able to go on with their lives in the meantime.


Other symptoms can be isolation, withdrawal, guilt, anger, and anxiety, while more symptoms manifest themselves physically. A person might have muscle aches and headaches, and complete diet changes, as well as venting about the situation constantly.


Side effects include feeling numb and falling into unhealthy patterns to find some relief. Whether a person is experiencing grief or anticipatory grief, both include feeling shock and sadness, including the cycle of grief. Anticipatory grief might come with a heightened sense of anger and helplessness, including being irritable and frustrated as the waiting period is in effect.


How to cope with anticipation grief

The silver lining here is that someone in the throws of grief can create a plan, and obtain tools to help process things and start to get closure. Plus, there are other things a person can do.


Speak up about feelings with a support system. Or keep a journal. Through this, a person can begin to process what’s happening—find sense in it. Starting this can be immensely difficult, but it’s not impossible. Having support is important in order to know that loneliness isn’t forever. If people are willing to help, let them.


Support groups are also available to those who need it. Additionally, seeking professional help is one of the best things to do. It can be hard because they’re not experiencing what the person is going through it is, but the point is that they’ll become equipped with tools to handle the grief.


It’s important to note that while there are ways to cope with grief, it’s not something that can be solved or finished. Grief, even anticipatory, can’t essentially be cured. But it can be processed in healthy ways—this is where therapy comes in. Certain therapists specialize in grief counseling and are experts in providing clients with tools that can help them come to terms with what’s going on in and outside the grieving’s life. That’s so important. It’s also important to remember that the battle doesn’t have to be fought alone. There are always options and people willing to help. In a world with so much grief, it’s important to take care of ourselves.


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.