Anticipatory grief means we are grieving a loss before the loss has happened. It is in expectation of difficult times ahead. We anticipate it, prepare for it and expect grief, and this brings up a vast range of extreme, conflicting emotions. The time spent caring for a dying loved one can be chaotic and emotions may see-saw from hope and joy to helplessness and depression.
It’s important to remember grief cannot be placed on a timeline. It is a process, not an event, and we all experience grief in our own individual ways. Imagining what the loss will be like can occupy our thoughts. The transition and change associated with losing a loved one causes nothing to feel normal. Sometimes feeling the ups and downs becomes so overwhelming that caregivers may become numb.
If they’re having a good day, it’s natural that you would allow yourself to feel optimistic and hopeful that your life together will continue on as it always has. But if your loved one is having a bad day, doesn’t want to eat, and just wants to stay in bed, then the reality of their disease slaps you in the face again.
Features of Anticipator Grief
- Feelings of Unreality – Sometimes we refuse to feel the reality of horrible news, and may only allow the reality to sink in little by little.
- Disbelief, Fear and Denial – When we accept the reality, we feel the fear and pain of that anticipated loss, so we may ask for second opinions, fear the difficulty of the dying experience to come and hold on to hope, recognizing that hope’s focus may change over time.
- Anger, Hostility and Guilt – Sometimes when we feel helpless to fix something or to make it better, this helplessness can turn into anger and hostility toward the disease, the doctors, one’s self, God, and your loved one. Also many feel guilt about wishing their loved one would die to end their suffering. This desire for them to be released from this life does not diminish your love for them.
- Depression and Hiding Your Feelings – Stress can cause depression. When we hold our feelings of anger and sadness inside, depression can result. Depression is treatable and if you are feeling these feelings, you may want to talk with your doctor to receive help from a counselor or medications.
- Symptoms of Depression – If you experience any of the following, ask for professional help.
- Sadness is so overwhelming that you feel like crying all the time.
- You have no energy or motivation to do normal activities
- Nothing is pleasurable to you
- You feel hopeless and worthless
- You just want to sleep all the time or you cannot sleep at all
- Your thinking is disorganized or confused
- You are having thoughts of ending your life
- There is a significant change in your weight either up or down
- Changes in Health and Physical Problems – Stress is destructive for us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Our responses to stress can range from sleep problems, eating problems and negative effects on pre-existing illnesses like anxiety, heart disease and others. Don’t neglect your own healthcare and schedule regular visits with your own doctor during this time.
- Ignoring Your Own Needs – As a caregiver, you are constantly doing for your love one. Allow friends and other family members to help you with care. Don’t try to do it all yourself. Talk about what you are experiencing and share your load with others.
- Changes in Thinking – During stressful times it is often difficult to concentrate and you feel like you’re in a fog. Delegate tasks to others, and simplify your life wherever possible.
Source: Marty Hogan, L. M. (2009). Anticipatory Grief. Ashland: Sacred Vigil Press.
Don’t underestimate the support your own faith community can bring in times of need and grief. Through the dying process, the funeral or memorial planning and the grieving after a loved one’s death, clergy and friends in a faith community can provide an enormous amount of support. Welcome that support and call on your minister, priest, rabbi, Lama, Imam, spiritual guide, master, Stephen’s Minister or parish nurse to help you through your difficult times.
Most faith communities offer individual counseling or support groups to walk their members through their grief however long it takes. See individual Hospice sites which indicate their support group information.
Hospice Bereavement Programs
Under the Medicare Hospice Benefit, hospices provide bereavement support for at least a year to families of patients they have served. They also provide bereavement services to partners and close friends. Often, hospices provide this support to people in their community even if the death did not occur with hospice care. For example, the bereaved person may have lost a family member in an accident or because of an act of violence. The bereavement coordinator at the hospice can provide information about what support services are available or recommend local resources existing within the community.
Generally, bereavement support comes in the form of bereavement libraries, hospice volunteers who specialize in grief counseling, bereavement support groups and community memorial events. With complex grief, hospice social workers may provide personalized counseling.
Jackson and Josephine county hospices all provide bereavement support. Please read below to find contact information and what specialty bereavement programs are offered.
Asante Hospice Bereavement Program
Offers a copy of the “Lavender Book,” a guide created to help loved ones cope spiritually with death, contact Rogue Regional Medical Center Hospice Services at (541) 789-5005.
Providence Hospice Bereavement Program
“Journey Through Grief” is a Medford area free support group. Providence offers community memorials, Camp Erin for grieving children, bereavement volunteers, community seminars and individual and family counseling. For more information, please call the bereavement coordinator at 541-732-6869.
Rogue Valley Chapter, Asante / Smullin Center 2825 Barnett Rd Medford 97504, Contact Megan Farnsworth email firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone (541) 552-8390
WinterSpring Center for Transforming Grief and Loss provides grief support and education for children, youth and adults throughout Jackson County. Building on twenty years of service, WinterSpring also informs and trains schools, employers, helping professionals and community groups about the grief experience. The only organization in the Rogue Valley specializing in these issues, WinterSpring sets the area standard of excellence in education and compassionate support.
WinterSpring is a non-profit corporation staffed primarily by volunteers, consisting of dedicated and concerned bereaved persons, professionals, lay persons and community leaders.
Contact WinterSpring at (541) 552-0620 to learn more.
Self-Care for Grieving
“You can’t prevent the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair.” Chinese Proverb
Think about what helps you relax and re-energize and make time to do that when you are anticipating a loss and when grieving after a death.
Helpful Suggestions for Self-Care
- Get some exercise or just move your body
- Go outside and breathe some fresh air
- Pet your dog or cat
- Read a chapter in a favorite book
- Go to the mall or out to lunch with a friend
- Watch a funny movie and laugh
- Write in your journal or write on anything
- Take a nap
- Listen to some favorite music
- Slow down and don’t do everything at once
- Have a good cry
- Learn to prioritize
- Call a friend and get some support
- Stick to a routine which works for you
- Write down a list of your needs and how you are going to meet them
- Identify and talk about your feelings
- Recognize that you’re only human
- Hug a child
- Meditate and pray
- Find hope in your life
- Make a list of things you can do to take care of yourself
- Make a list of people you can call when you need help
Source: Marty Hogan, L. M. (2009). Anticipatory Grief. Ashland: Sacred Vigil Press.
Prayers, music of hope grief and loss during a pandemic
If you cannot be with your loved one as they are dying…. a few ideas:
– Ask your spiritual Leader to stand outside your loved one’s home or care center and pray
– Ask a nurse or person present to hold up the phone to your loved one’s ear, as hearing is the last sense to go. They will hear your voice and loving words.
– Light a candle in your home, create a sacred space on which to set photos of your loved one and things that remind you of them, spend some time in thanksgiving for them.
– Write a note thanking them for all you can remember, if possible, read it over the phone to them.
-Request the chaplain or staff member to connect via Facetime or zoom with you while in your loved one’s room.
Be creative! From the grandson who worked for the power company and borrowed their lift truck, called the care home where his grandma lived on the 3rd floor, and made a surprise visit outside her 3rd floor window; to little kids making pictures and posting them outside their loved ones windows; to singing a favorite song over the phone or through a door to a beloved…you will find a way to show love and support.
A prayer from The Rev. Nadia Boltz-Weber, Lutheran Pastor, Author and National speaker.
I do not know when we can gather together again in worship, Lord.
So, for now I just ask that:
When I sing along in my kitchen to each song on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in The Key of Life Album, that it be counted as praise. (Happy 70th Birthday, SW!)
And that when I read the news and my heart tightens in my chest, may it be counted as a Kyrie.
And that when my eyes brighten in a smile behind my mask as I thank the cashier may it be counted as passing the peace.
And that when I water my plants and wash my dishes and take a shower may it be counted as remembering my baptism.
And that when the tears come and my shoulders shake and my breathing falters, may it be counted as prayer.
And that when I stumble upon a Tabitha Brown video and hear her grace and love of you may it be counted as a hearing a homily.
And that as I sit at that table in my apartment, and eat one more homemade meal, slowly, joyfully, with nothing else demanding my time or attention, may it be counted as communion.
A prayer written by The Very Revd. Catherine Ogle, Winchester Cathedral, England
Loving One, as I enter this holy time,
I bring into your presence the bewilderment and uncertainty engulfing our world.
As I light a candle of hope,
I pray that my anxiety may soften.
I ask for calm, not only for myself, but for all people.
Give us all a spirit of love and compassion in this time of need,
and for all who are sick, isolated and afraid, embrace them with the assurance of your peace and love.