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Signs of Anticipatory Grief and How to Manage Your Feelings

By Jonathan Wells, 9:00 am on

Often associated with the period following death, grief can also be experienced prior to an elderly loved one’s passing in what’s referred to as anticipatory grief. This advanced preparation is common among family members who provide home care in Douglas County for loved ones with conditions that can dramatically affect personality and physical capabilities.

Similar Feelings to Physical Loss

Symptoms of anticipatory grief aren’t the same as grief in the sense that there isn’t an instant shock followed by a flood of emotions often expressed in stages. With anticipatory grief, feelings of grief are often experienced over time when it becomes clear that a loved one is deteriorating with no realistic expectations of recovery. Symptoms associated with anticipatory grief include:

• Depression and sadness when realizing that part of your loved one’s personality is already gone
• Anger and frustration when you feel that you or your loved one’s doctors could be doing something more
• Isolation often in the form of finding excuses not to spend as much time around your loved one or passing caregiver duties off to other family members

Coping with Anticipatory Grief

Understand that you’re grieving the loss of the way you previously connected with your aging parent or relative. Finding ways to process what you’re feeling can ease the emotional burden making it difficult to enjoy the time you have left with your loved one. Consider:

• Keeping a journal or discussing your feelings with other family members who may be going through the same emotions
• Finding a support group online or scheduling an appointment with a grief counselor specializing in anticipatory grief
• Developing new ways to spend meaningful time with your loved one (it may not be the same as before, but connecting on a different level is often possible)

In spite of well-meaning assurances from friends or other family members who may say things like “at least they’re still alive” as a means of comfort, anticipatory grief is perfectly normal. Experiencing this form of grief can soften the emotions that come when death does occur, although this too is perfectly normal and not a reflection of how much you loved that person.

Being the primary caregiver for an elderly loved one can be challenging mentally and emotionally. If you could use a helping hand meeting your loved one’s care needs or are considering respite care in Douglas County so you can recharge and regroup, reach out to Home Care Assistance. All of our caregivers are trained and experienced, our dedicated Care Managers are available 24/7, and all of our services are backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. For more information, please call 720-287-1685 and request a free in-home consultation.