Anticipatory Grief: Grieving Your Family Member's Lost Abilities

Anticipatory grief also called pre grieving are the sad feelings we have before our family member dies as we anticipate his loss.

While pre grieving does occur in most situations where there is a lingering illness, Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and other dementias well deserve the title of "the long goodbye".

Families and their loved ones experience many incremental losses while coping with dementia or AD.

Sadly dementia means watching your loved one's memory, judgment and day-to-day skills slip away. At each step through the dementia process, you are confronted with loss.

How can a person cope with the emotional devastation of your family member forgetting your name or not knowing how to dress himself?

Tips for coping with anticipatory grief

  • Be present with your feelings. When you feel sad about family member's decline and loss of abilities, feel your feelings and do not push them aside. In the rush and hurry of day-to-day life and caring for a family member, it is easy to replace feeling with doing. Resist pushing aside your feelings, find a bit of privacy and take a little time to experience your sadness.
  • Share your feelings with others and get support for your ongoing grieving. Seek a support person to confide in. Ask the person to listen and be with you without judging or offering solutions.
  • Seek moments of joy and connection with your family member.
  • Manage your caregiver stress by taking care of yourself. Learn more about managing your stress.
  • Pre grieving and caregiving do not automatically lead to depression and yet you should always be sensitive to the signs that stress has triggered depression. If you find yourself consistently feeling sad and unable to cope, ask your doctor to screen you for depression.


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