Recently I have added a couple of clients who are going through Anticipatory Grieving. That is to say that a loved one is has not passed but they may be on hospice, or terminally ill. Likewise, it could be a worry so great that the loved one is playing so dangerously with their own life that it generates a deep and real fear that they will die soon.
This is placing your emotions into the anticipation of a loss that has not happened but you are already grieving. Many will think that the benefit of knowing a loved one, an upcoming move, one who has decided to end a relationship, will have an easier time with the grieving cycle because they have had more time to prepare and process everything. Rather, it can be exponentially more difficult. Thoughts of; "Is this the day I get the call?" or a visit where the loved one looks more depleted. To the thought of being present when they take their last breath. Even for a a thing and not a person: A move from a home where you grow more sentimental of memories in each room, sale of a vehicle and vacations or other other memories there, pending divorce or end of a relation where you grow sentimental and reflective even though your mind is made up.
Anticipatory Grieving not only starts the actual grieving process and stages of grief; it places us into deep conflict emotionally. We may become resentful of the person dying because it is taking so long and they are drawing out the pain. So selfish on our part, which drives even more guilt thinking this way. We just want the pain for both of us to end. We may wish a miracle recovery instead of dying to eliminate the pain. There is a danger of abusing alcohol or drugs to comfort or numb the pain. Relapse is common among those in recovery for Anticipatory grief versus sudden loss.
Compare it to slowly peeling off a band-aid versus yanking it off quickly. If you had that choice with loss, what would you prefer?
What can we do to handle anticipatory grief?
First, keep in mind that the person you are grieving for has it much worse than you. Even the addict who won't seek help, their pain is self-inflected and selfish. They are choosing the addiction over friends and family.
Remember the pain you are feeling is for and about yourself. You hurt because you love and are already emotionally miss them. But you miss them for as they were, probably not for mentally and physically how they are now. Look at them and comfort yourself that they will soon be at peace and comfort. No pain, no emotional misery, no addiction, nothing.
Wake-up grateful that they are still here. Ask for another day from you higher power.
Work on a 4th - 9th step specific to the person and offer anything that you can clean up or any loose ends on behalf of the person before they depart.
Talk to them, write a quick journal of memories if possible. Remember how they lived. Not how they are leaving.
For the self-inflicted, addicts, loners, etc. Wish them strength and again be grateful you did not get THAT phone call. Meditate or pray that you get the call from them that reunites them with the family. However, move on with you day and stay in the present.
Finally, STAY IN THE MOMENT! Ask yourself the question, "What can I do about this RIGHT NOW?" The answer is nothing, zero, nada. You have no control, period. There was nothing you could do an hour, day, week, month, year ago so let's forget that. The next second has not happened yet, so we have no idea what is going to happen. All we have is RIGHT NOW, let's make this moment as joyous as we can.