Anticipatory grief is defined as experiencing grief and loss before the actual death of a loved one has occurred. Most people begin to grieve the impending loss of a loved one once they hear the news that death is coming.
I experienced this when my dad had Alzheimer’s. My family knew there was no cure. And while we tried to live the best life we could at whatever stage he was at, there always lingered the knowledge that one day Alzheimer’s disease would kill him, that is if something else didn’t take him first.
(It is such a hard way to live!)
You know death is coming, you just don’t know exactly when. This is an extremely difficult burden to bear. It weighs on a person even when they are not thinking about it.
If this journey continues for an extended period of time it can really grind you down and wear you out; physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The symptoms you can experience are many of the same you would experience at the time of death of your loved one. Things like denial of the situation, mood swings, forgetfulness, disorganization, anger, depression, and loneliness. There can also be physical symptoms such as a change in weight, affected sleep patterns, anxiety, or fatigue.
As with all sorrows you must make sure to care for yourself both physically and emotionally. (Refer to my pages Healthy Bereavement and Unhealthy Grief) Remember that in caring for yourself you are better fit to care for your dying loved one. It is important to build yourself a support network. Family, friends and organizations can be helpful resources. (For us it was the Alzheimer’s Assoc.; find the support group that fits your specific situation.)
It is essential to recognize that what you are experiencing is real. Do not deny its existence. The best way to cope is to accept it is there. Have the courage to begin the work that must be accomplished. Denying it won’t make it go away.
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