Anticipatory Grief


How and when to grieve is sometimes unclear.

When do we grieve a terminal diagnosis? Do we grieve now or when a loved one passes? Do we grieve a dementia patient now, or when the person is physically gone?

We are constantly torn between good times and bad, between positive associations and uncertain loss. Some of the most grievous times can come from things like addiction, terminal physical illness, dementia, military action, and accidents. Loss can be quite complicated, sometimes referred to as “frozen grief.”

Pauline Boss, emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota, describes this condition when a loved one is physically present but psychologically absent, or the opposite – psychologically present but physically absent due to a tragedy such as a missing family member. Dr. Boss, author of Ambiguous Loss, suggests that common situations like divorce, adoptions or estrangement can also cause confused feelings of grief; these represent ambiguous loss and a person can find it hard to keep going. The grief we feel when someone is here, but really not here, is normal and Dr. Boss suggests you give yourself permission to “ride the waves of this type of loss without feeling pressured to just move on.”

Loss is very personal and each person deals with it differently.


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