What Is Anticipatory Grief?

In many cases, grief occurs when someone has already suffered a loss. But grief can also result from a loss that is impending but hasn’t yet occurred. When this happens, it’s referred to as “anticipatory grief” or “preparatory grief.”

Anticipatory grief commonly affects individuals who are expecting to lose someone or something important in the near future. For example, you may experience anticipatory grief if:

  • You or a loved one were diagnosed with a terminal illness or a progressive condition (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease or multiple sclerosis).
  • You’ve been told that you’ll need to have surgery to remove a body part (e.g., an amputation or a mastectomy).
  • You’re experiencing marital problems that you expect will lead to a divorce.
  • You’ve been told that your unborn child has a congenital disorder.
  • Your adult child is about to move out of the family home.

Like the other types of grief, anticipatory grief can lead to sadness, irritability, anger, anxiety, fear, guilt, and other intense emotions. However, it’s important to remember that anticipatory grief can also serve a beneficial purpose—it can motivate you to address unresolved issues and process your thoughts and feelings before the event in question occurs.

Speak to a Therapist

If you think you may be experiencing anticipatory grief, we invite you to schedule an appointment with one of the skilled therapists on our team. We’re highly experienced in treating the many forms of grief, and we’ll provide you with the tools and tips you need to move forward with your life. Contact us today.