Anticipatory Grief is a Good Thing

I remember reading the cartoon book, “Good Grief, Charlie Brown”, when I was a child.

The phrase, “good grief,” grabbed my attention. What did it mean?

I knew grief was what one experienced when someone died. At the time I didn’t imagine that could be good. One lives long enough and learns that grief really is a good thing.

Books have been written about the grief process and I’ll not repeat the “stages of grief” material here. However, there is a type of grief that can play a large role in the life of a caregiver. That grief is Anticipatory Grief.

Anticipatory Grief is the grief one experiences before an expected event happens. Anticipatory grief helps prepare us for future loss. It’s a sense of sadness and other emotions that come before an event we know will hurt us in some way.

For one caring for an MS patient, anticipatory grief is what you feel when you consider the future and what it probably holds in terms of your loved one’s disease progression. I like numbers so I pay attention to the statistics in articles I read which describe the typical disease progression of Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t like what I read and I don’t like what the statistics seem to indicate for the future.

Don’t get me wrong. Because most of the time I am very aware of what a gracious universe it is in which I live. By nature, I’m an optimist about personal things. When I read about the promising research being done in the field of Multiple Sclerosis, I’m filled with hope. I look forward to what the future holds for the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.

But occasionally, after reading an article about MS and the typical disease progression from relapsing/remitting to secondary progressive, a sense of grief about the future slips up on me and I find a few tears gathering behind my eyes … not enough to fall … but enough to know they’re there.

That’s anticipatory grief. And, believe it or not, it’s a good thing.

Caregiver Tip: It is important that a caregiver acknowledge the sadness one feels when considering the future. Anticipatory grief is a healthy response to a future loss.

One Comment

  1. Erica said:

    I’ve experienced this many times over the past few years, but I never knew there was a name for it, or that others experienced it too…Thanks for this!

    July 2, 2011

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