(800) 973-1540

Anticipatory Grief

Why It's Natural to Grieve Before Death

By , Caring.com contributing editor
95% helpful

Caring for someone during the long decline of dementia means enduring many losses. Some days you may awaken feeling as if you're in mourning. In a way, you are. Dementia caregivers are especially vulnerable to anticipatory grief, a form of grieving for a loved one that begins while the person is still alive.

Three helpful things to know:

  • Anticipatory grief is perfectly natural. With dementia, so much of the person's personality (and, eventually, physical self) is altered, it's natural for family members to mourn these losses.

  • Anticipatory grief is the same as "real" postmortem grief. A 2001 study in The Gerontologist called anticipatory grief equivalent in intensity and breadth to the response to death.

  • Anticipatory grief has an odd silver lining. Grief specialists say it prepares us for the end. In dementia, it may be a long, slow, painful warm-up, but it is a warm-up. Learn more about anticipatory grief.