Anticipatory Grief and Complicated Grief Explained

anticipatory grief

Losing a loved one is an experience almost everyone has had. When grief’s shadow touches your life, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions, from despair to anger. Gradually, the storm subsides, and you slowly start healing, accepting your loss and moving forward. 

However, the grieving process isn’t always a straightforward journey. For example, while most people are familiar with the grief they feel after a friend, family member, pet or other acquaintance passes away, anticipatory grief is a form of anguish you might feel before your or your loved one’s death. Meanwhile, complicated grief refers to feelings of debilitating loss that do not improve, even after allowing yourself time and space to heal. 

What Is Anticipatory Grief?

Anticipatory grief can refer to concerns about the future loss of a loved one, but it can also occur if you are worried about your impending death. For example, if you or your spouse receives a terminal diagnosis of an illness such as cancer, you may be worried about losing your partner, experiencing financial hardships or changes in your family dynamic. 

Grief before death often brings more irritability, anger and emotional upheaval when you allow yourself to think about the loss to come. However, some anticipatory grief can be therapeutic. For example, your knowledge of an impending death may represent an opportunity for saying goodbye or resolving long-held grudges among family members. It can also bring a sense of closure that people who lose loved ones unexpectedly never have. 

What Is Complicated Grief?

Complicated grief, also known as persistent complex bereavement disorder, is a form of acute grief that causes long-term suffering after the loss of a loved one. With complicated grief, you may struggle to cope for months, years or longer. You might also find yourself withdrawing from social situations, losing motivation to complete daily responsibilities or wishing you had died instead.

While everyone moves through the stages of grief at different rates, if you find yourself unable to accept the reality of your loss, focus on anything other than your sadness or form new, healthy relationships a year or more after losing your loved one, you may have complicated grief.

Our culture commonly views grief as an emotional issue people should grapple with behind closed doors. However, if your complex grief is making you feel worthless, hopeless or suicidal, you may be struggling with a mood disorder that shares many symptoms with depression. If so, a licensed therapist can recommend therapeutic approaches to help relieve your burden. Contact your doctor or a mental health professional if you have intense despair or suicidal ideation that don’t improve at least one year after the passing of your loved one.

Continuing Care for Women’s Needs

At Canyon Crossing, we have developed a curriculum specifically to account for women with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders such as depression and trauma. To learn more about our women’s-only programming, connect with us today.

Benefits of Residential AddictionTreatment

You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick. This is the philosophy behind our residential addiction treatment program. At Canyon Crossing, women learn to live life on life’s terms while staying in a safe, substance-free setting. This gives our clients the space and peace needed for lasting recovery.
Our residential program combines high-accountability sober living arrangements with first-rate clinical care. While staying in our homes, clients participate in process groups, one-on-one counseling sessions, and hands-on learning opportunities. They also receive ongoing training; in these meetings, life skills like financial management and conflict resolution are imparted. All of this happens with 24/7 encouragement, guidance, and supervision from our clinical team.
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