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Anticipatory grief

John was on his way to office, when he got an urgent call from his cousin informing about his aunt who had just slipped in the bathroom and possibly had fractured her hip bone. John rushed to the hospital ,but was more confused after meeting the doctor ,who informed him about a new development with his Aunt’s health, during the MRI, the doctor’s team learnt of a full blown level 4 cancer John’s aunt was suffering from , leaving the family with a complete new set of challenges to cope up with.

The news devastated John, he scheduled a personal appointment with the doctor and had a detailed discussion asking everything that came to his mind ,finally towards the end ,after a lot of hesitation , he summed up the courage to ask the inevitable question and said ;

What’s the mortality rate for this kind of cancer ? in short how long will she live?

The doctor responded ,perhaps a month or two, John felt numb and silent for a very long time .

The next two months , were very difficult for the family, John saw her aunt deteriorate, every day to a new level.

When we learn about a loss which is inevitable , waiting only for the time , it is called anticipatory grief. A period ,a phase of being aware of what’s to come ,yet hoping with all positivity to either delay the inevitable or some kind of miracle to turn things around .

Mehnaz Amjad, Grief Coach

Anticipatory grief stems often in one of the last phases before any major loss or setback , not all losses or failure comes with so much announcement ,as anticipatory grief . It is also considered a period where one get’s prepared to finally meet the inevitable outcome which is bound to happen.

In case of John , his aunt succumbed to the disease within the next five weeks , after several excruciating episode of unbearable pain ,she slipped into coma and later on opened her eyes for one last time before she breathed her last. These five weeks kept the family on an edge of what’s to happen next ,sometimes they would find her normal, and then there were times when she would be in pain for hours ,tossing and toiling in the bed seeking an escape from it all. There were days she would speak and share about her past and many fond memories , and then there were days ,she could barely recognize anyone nor sleep for even a minute.

People as caregiver’s to the very sick ,or people suffering from fatal diseases and illnesses are usually the one’s experiencing anticipatory grief , this period often also work as a shock absorber preparing the people around to get to terms with the reality .

Personal loss or death is inevitable to every living being , yet no one wants to ever get reminded of it ,neither for oneself nor for the loved ones. Anticipatory grief thus act as a time period ,especially shielding the human mind from sudden shock and trauma which can at times be fatal.

Anticipatory Grief in a summary is ;

  • Thoughts & unpleasant experiences one may encounter just before the demise of a loved one
  • Experiences of a caregiver to people suffering from chronic illness
  • A period where one is not completely aware of what’s next
  • A period getting one prepared for the inevitable
  • A period that act as a shock absorber

Anticipatory grief can prepare but to an extent only , after a while , having been through a personal loss or setback, when one find oneself trapped in grief ,which has now begun to impact other key areas of life ,motivation has dipped, one is not organized or productive at work ,relationships suffer ,mental health has taken a toll ,one is in constant low mood of irritability ,frustration, then it’s time to consider seeking external support and help.

How ? by hiring a coach and being coached.

(c)Mehnaz Amjad 2021

About the Author : Mehnaz Amjad  is a Life Coach, a CBT Practitioner ,Founder of Guide & Advice which offers Coaching to both individuals and organizations. Connect

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