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.