Mourning before Death: What You Need to Know about Anticipatory Grief

a mom and her son visiting a grave

Grief after losing a loved one is inevitable. However, grief — an all-consuming sense of loss — can also grow even before an incident of death. Many people experience it when they have a loved one who is terminally ill.

Mental health experts in Indiana highly recommend that you immediately seek a support group if you find out that someone you deeply care for has a terminal illness. It’s going to be a tough journey, not only for your loved one but also for the people in your inner circle.

Grief before Death

Anticipatory grief refers to the feeling of grief that builds when a loved one is nearing the end of life. People who experience it mourns the losses the patient is going through, such as the inability to move freely and maintain independence. The source of this deep sadness could also be, in the case of an aging parent, the loss of memories and senility. These are devastating for everyone involved, especially for family members who served as caregivers.
Although grieving before death gives you opportunities to prepare yourself emotionally and to say goodbye, it doesn’t mean that grieving after death will no longer happen. In fact, informal caregivers might need grief support even more. Indiana hospice professionals recommend seeking grief support after a patient’s death, as well.

A Mix of Emotions

People who experience anticipatory grief also experience a range of emotions: sorrow, anger, worry, acceptance, and denial, to name some. Caregivers experience these emotions on a different level, however, because they have a bond with the terminally ill patient.

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If you were an informal caregiver, you feel closer to your loved one. You might even shove away thoughts of the nearing end. You get frustrated because you think there’s not enough time to say goodbye and that there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s also likely that you feel guilty and responsible for your loved one’s condition. All these feelings are valid; but, it’s important that you communicate these to people who can help you sort your feelings, like grief counselors. You may find them, and grief support groups, at hospice centers.

The reality that someone you love may soon be gone can take an emotional toll. Take care of yourself by finding a solid support network.