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Anticipatory Grief: How to Cope When Loss Is Near?

Most people think about grief as something that we experience after a death has occurred. Did you know that grief is also something we experience when we anticipate a loss? This kind of grief is called “anticipatory grief.” It is a natural process through which our hearts and minds go to ultimately come to terms with a loss we know we will experience.

If you are a caregiver, you may be experiencing “anticipatory grief” right now. You may be denying the reality of your impending loss, trying to “bargain” with your Higher Power toward changing the reality, feeling angry, feeling depressed or in a state of “acceptance.” You can feel more than one of these emotions at a time or skip one or more of these emotions. You will likely visit one or several of these emotions more than once.

Know that all of these possibilities are normal and are part of the grieving process. Feeling these emotions fully will support you in getting through this process. You may need the support of someone like a grief counselor, who is trained to support you and give you some coping strategies.

While “anticipatory grief” will not take away the experience of grief when an actual death has occurred, it will likely impact how intensely—and for how long—you grieve after a physical death. This can feel confusing and can even inspire us to feel guilty for not feeling “more” when actual death occurs. Please know, however, that there is never a “right” or a “wrong” way to grieve and that grieving in anticipation of a loss takes a lot of physical, emotional, intellectual and even spiritual energy.

Know that support is available for you.

For more information or support, contact Rachel Weinstein at Baptist’s AgeWell Center for Senior Health at 408.540.4950 or

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