Anticipatory grief is different from “regular” grief. Anticipatory grief can come to take over your life while you are in the strange, in-between place of waiting and wondering. The uncertainty of it can impact everything you do.
Living with anticipatory grief can blur the boundaries of daily life. You find yourself living in a strange limbo that affects your ability to manage life’s responsibilities effectively. Here’s how to tell if anticipatory grief is impacting your life.
As with all types of grief, anticipatory grief affects your emotions in a significant way. Naturally, you’re going to have moments of deep sadness. You may catch yourself crying unexpectedly. Other times, you laugh and smile as you recall happy memories. Grief can make you feel more tired, too. Living with all of these emotions can make it hard to manage everyday life.
Other Responsibilities Take Second Place
Living with anticipatory grief often means that nothing else in life seems as essential as focusing on your loved one. Your time with them, your thoughts about them, and your emotions crowd out the mental space you need to manage the practical realities of life.
Things that seemed urgent before suddenly seem unimportant and a waste of time. Managing your household, work responsibilities, and social activities aren’t priorities anymore.
Thoughts of Your Loved One Dominate Your Life
Understandably, thoughts about the loved one who is at the center of your anticipatory grief will dominate your mind. This mindset is natural, although it can make it very hard to focus on other tasks and responsibilities.
Reminiscing about your memories and experiences together will be standard. So will sorrow as you imagine all that they’ve done and been in their time on earth. Every life is precious; every life is a unique container of memories and history that can never be replaced. Focusing on your time and memories with them is natural.
You’re Tired of Waiting
It can sound a little unkind to put it this way. But if you’ve been living with anticipatory grief for an extended time, it’s often true. The reality is that living with anticipatory grief leaves you constantly on edge. You’re always wondering when the loss is going to occur. Planning for significant events becomes impossible. There’s no deadline; you don’t know how long you’ll be living with anticipatory grief. So, with time, you may feel tired of waiting.
You Feel Guilty
It’s normal to feel guilty when a loved one is seriously ill and struggling, and you’re still healthy. You may find yourself looking forward to time by yourself, away from your loved one, when you’re in the thick of anticipatory grief. Caregiving is time-consuming, after all. And this, of course, makes you feel bad. Your time with them is limited, but you still need simple pleasures and time on your own.
You Feel Restless
Feelings of restlessness naturally occur alongside the other factors we’ve discussed here. It’s hard to focus and settle when you’re always waiting for something big to happen, especially when you don’t know precisely when it will be.
Caught Between Hope and Despair
When a loved one is ill, you may find yourself wanting to hold onto hope that they will miraculously pull through. Maybe a new drug will be found, or exploratory surgery can fix whatever’s wrong. You find yourself wondering how much hope you should have while you live in the blurry, confusing space of anticipatory grief.
If you live in this strange space of anticipatory grief, reaching out to a therapist for help can make a big difference. A therapist can help you walk through the big emotions you’re experiencing. They can guide you through this tough season and help you prepare for what’s ahead.
I encourage you to contact my office today or learn more by visiting my page on depression counseling.