Anticipatory Grief


Anticipatory grief is what I experienced when my husband had Alzheimer’s disease. I’d been told that there was no cure and had to live with the fact that he would die from Alzheimer’s if nothing else claimed him first. It was a burden that weighed on me heavily. A friend denied the existence of anticipatory grief and I had to work hard to assure her that it was very real.

We went through the same heart-rending process when our son was ill with schizophrenia as a psychiatrist had warned us that many people in his condition end their lives. Can you imagine living with something like this hanging over your heads? In the end, the doctor proved correct. Anticipatory grief? Yes. When our son changed from being the friendly, happy, tall lad we had known, slowly but surely we started mourning for the son we’d known and 16 years later, he ended his life.  Real grief, not anticipatory ?

 I think that the difference between healthy bereavement and unhealthy grief is whether someone actually progresses through the grief cycle or whether they get stuck in it. Our son’s death was a terrible shock. But, we all decided to move on and do our best not to slip into a depression. When my husband passed away, we did the same thing. Of course it took its toll, but getting stuck in the cycle of grief is not healthy. Slowly we all learned to live, to love and to smile once more.


3 thoughts on “Anticipatory Grief

  1. Pingback: Anticipatory Grief | Jill’s Experiences with Mental Health and Alzheimer’s Disease | Loss, Grief, Transitions and Relationship Support

  2. Pingback: C J Talks About: Her Own Struggle With Grief And Forgiveness | A View From Under The Prep-Room Table

  3. CJ

    I am so sorry for your loss of husband and son. I can attest to the fact that ‘anticipatory grief’ IS REAL. I liken it to the pain one endures when a scab is ripped off of a deep, slowly healing wound. Ripped off over and over again. Baring fresh pain and worry each time. Adding more weight to the anchor around your neck. Even when someone’s death is imminent, and we have plenty of time to get used to the idea that it will happen soon, the grief of the loss is still very profound. A.G. is like a rollercoaster in that there are battles along the way we must steel ourselves against. For example when my father was left in critical condition for most of 11 years following an accident, it was touch and go many times. Multiple brain surgeries and worsening seizures. He’d get thru them, then seem to be okay. Death knocked on our door with regularity. We held our ground. Death walked away. Death returned. Over & over. After a while, we didn’t know whether we should have prayed more for ourselves to be strong, or for him to get better. While his quality of life was very low and one we knew he never wanted to be living as such, we cherished that we still had him to love and care for. When he died, I was really ready to let him go.I miss him so much, but I miss the man he had been, before the tragedy. I died each time I saw him all broken and forever helpless. It got too hard to spend more than a few minutes at a time, the last 5 years or so. My mom never could accept that he would have to leave her. It has been three years since he died and she has deteriorated more with every passing day. Biding her time until she will die, and holding hope and faith that she will then get to be with him in eternity. It is so sad. No amount of anticipating will ease the grief when the loss happens. It is just the horrible torture we bear before the loss. An added measure of pain and sorrow that does its best to suck the joy and quality from your life as you attempt to make those final days good ones. Thanks for telling about your experience and sharing your pain with the world. You are a remarkable lady who is strong enough to bear personal grief and be willing to help others with theirs. God Bless you.


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