Coping With Anticipatory Grief Symptoms

This past week my sister-in-law’s mother died after spending 10 days in hospice. Prior to that, she had 7 months of at-home critical care knowing she would never get better, having been diagnosed with cancer.  My sister-in-law was the primary caregiver to her mother, spending 5 days a week at her side during the day while her other siblings stepped in during other times.

I saw the toll the anticipatory grief stages took on all the family members while awaiting her inevitable death. Depending on your loved one’s illness, you may suffer from anticipatory grief for a year, 5 years, 10 years, or even longer. The slow decline of a loved one is a heavy burden. Edward Myers, in his book “When Parents Die,” says this burden comes with special hardships.

Anticipatory Grief Symptoms

Anticipatory GriefThe symptoms of anticipatory grief can include  mood swings, forgetfulness, disorganized and confused behavior, anger, depression, denial, feeling disconnected from life and alone. You may have health symptoms, too, such as weight loss or gain, problems sleeping, nervous behavior, depression and general fatigue.

Many people don’t even realize that they’ve experiencing anticipatory grief symptoms, and how badly it is affecting them. According to Myers, a sudden death hits you like an explosion and sends you into shock, but an impending death “arrives more like a glacier, massive and unstoppable, grinding you down.” Dealing with anticipatory grief symptoms gets harder with each passing day.

Coping With Anticipatory Grief

The best thing that you can do is to give yourself permission to cry. Tears are a powerful emotional release, according to Jeffrey A. Kottler, author of “The Language of Tears.” He also says that crying brings people together. When you cry and share your story with others, they comfort you and in turn open up to share their own stories with you as well.

According to author Harriet Hodgson, compiling a support list help you to cope with the grief. Put the names of your contacts, their phone numbers and their email addresses on your list, so that you can contact someone on the list for help. It also helps to add anticipatory grief “prescriptions” to your list, helpful things like a daily walking group, a half-day cooking class, or a book club meeting.

Anticipatory grief symptoms are a big deal, and you shouldn’t just sweep them under the carpet. Coping with these symptoms using these tips is the best thing that you can do for yourself, so make sure you do one thing today that will help to brighten your tomorrow.

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