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What is anticipatory grief?

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Why does anticipatory grief happen?

Anticipatory grief is one way people react to the knowledge that a life-changing loss will happen in the near future. Although not everyone will experience anticipatory grief, for those who do, it's a normal response to the sadness and uncertainty that impending loss brings to both the present and the future.

Signs of anticipatory grief

The emotions and behaviours people experience when anticipating a loss can vary and will be felt with different levels of intensity. Some of the triggers include:
1. Emotional stress
2. Intense preoccupation with the dying loved one
3. Wishing for a return of the dying individual's personality before illness
4. Loneliness
5. Tearfulness
6. Irritability
7. Anger
8. Withdrawal from social situations
9. Desire to talk
10. Depression
11. Anxiety

Phases of anticipatory grief

Phase I: Death is inevitable
Phase II: Concern for the dying individual
Phase III: Rehearsal of death
Phase IV: Imagining life without the dying individual

Differences in anticipatory and conventional grief

Unlike a sudden loss, a loss that's anticipated enables people to prepare for the changes that will accompany the loss so those witnessing death can get closure. However, research has also shown that anticipatory grief is accompanied by more intense anger, loss of emotional control, and atypical grief responses.

Coping with anticipatory grief

You can cope with anticipatory grief by using it to prepare for the impending loss. This will give you the opportunity to ensure you can spend time with your loved one, have meaningful conversations, and say goodbye. This can also help you start the process of letting go.
In addition, it's important to make sure you have someone to talk to who understands what you're going through.

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