Have you ever missed someone while they were still around? Felt that sadness which comes at unexpected times even when your loved one is still in your life? Maybe you are repeating the same story to your mother with memory loss, or putting a brace on your partner who had a stroke last year. Perhaps you are paying the bills for your friend who just moved to a nursing home and is no longer able to manage their finances.

 

Anticipatory grief is incredibly common, and an experience caregivers rarely have an opportunity to discuss. Typically there are many tasks to attend to in caring for your loved one with little time to process the actual losses you witness every day. The characteristics and quirks that make this person unique may disappear or change if they are not feeling well, have cognitive impairment or are approaching the end of life.

Every day at The Care Plan we see caring friends and family band together for the well-being of their loved ones. In order to make that road a little easier, we wanted to identify some tools for dealing with anticipatory grief. Thank you for all you do every day, caregivers, for the duties you perform and care you provide.

The Care Plan’s Tools for Dealing with Anticipatory Grief

  1. Acknowledge the loss: It is common for caregivers to pretend like “everything is fine” or be uncomfortable with their sorrow because it doesn’t “do any good to cry about it.” Keeping up a false pretense is expending energy you simply don’t have. Be realistic about your feelings and commit to addressing your own needs while accepting your loved one is not as they once were.
  2. Accept that everyone is vulnerable: It takes major vulnerability to allow someone to care for you. Letting someone help with a shower, housekeeping, doctor’s appointments and more. We tell our loved ones not to be ashamed for needing help, yet we are ashamed of feeling our own loss. You are not a machine and the caregiving relationship is a mutual one. Read more.
  3. Take a break: Build in time to breathe. If you don’t have time to slow down, you have no time to process your grief.
  4. Lean on others: At some point or another most of us will be a caregiver. In the same way you’ve been a listening ear or shoulder to cry on you can trust others to be there for you. Friends, family, caregiver support groups, podcasts, radio programs or social gatherings are useful ways to feel less isolated.
  5. Learn: If you are a person who takes comfort from learning as much as you can about the road ahead, do the same in this situation. Your fears or anxiety may be mitigated with information about the disease progression, what resources are available, and how others have dealt with a similar situation. Our weekly Youtube videos may be helpful to you in this endeavor. Learn more.
  6. Connect with your loved one: Even though the connection may not feel the same as it once did, find opportunities to have meaningful moments. Some ideas are to read from a favorite book, create a scrapbook, ask about the past, thank them for their role in your life, or share a meal. There are a number of strategies you can employ, but it takes intention to make those meaningful moments happen.

If you find yourself experiencing anticipatory grief and would like resources, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are happy to advise you on how to organize care and secure the support you need to adequately deal with your anticipatory grief.