Anticipatory Grief

Anticipate–to think of something that will or might happen in the future; to expect or look ahead to something with pleasure: to look forward to something; or to do something before someone else.

The other day, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I came across a post from someone who was sharing that her mom had recently been diagnosed with dementia. The doctor also proceeded to tell her and her family that they only have 2-10 years left. She went on to share how she was feeling “anticipatory grief.”

I haven’t really ever heard that phrase before that day, but it has stuck with me. As a daughter of a woman who lives daily with mental illness and now dementia, I find myself also feeling “anticipatory grief.” Grieving those things that we won’t get to share in this life. I find myself grieving the reality that Mom will, more than likely, never get to go wedding dress shopping with me if I ever find my Mr. Right. I find myself grieving so much, friends.

I don’t want to anticipate too much. In fact, I want to cling to each and every day we do have. The laughs that are still to be shared. The joy that comes in mom seeing my sister or me. The love that mom embodies through her words and actions. But, so often, those things are overshadowed by the darkness of this illness that overtakes her in a moments notice.

There is anticipation when I call and wonder if she will remember my name or call me by another name. There is anticipation in seeing a phone call from her nursing home and wondering what todays news is. There is anticipation in the unknown and fear of when it will be her time to go to be with Grandma and Grandpa in heaven. There is anticipation that I cannot fix this and so badly want too. I so badly want the mom I have always known and loved to be whole again.

In this life, I know that my calling is to be Sandy’s daughter; beloved, broken and blessed child of God. But with that calling also comes “anticipatory grief.” Yet that “anticipatory grief” reminds me that our God is a God of life and death; a God of resurrection hope; a hope that becomes the Word made flesh when I remember that I am not on this journey alone.

In other words, that “anticipatory grief” will always be there because I am only human. But the truth is that in the midst of this anticipation, I am surrounded by people who will walk with me, who will dry my tears and who will simply sit with me in the midst of my own lamenting and anticipatory grief.

God surrounds us with community and places where we belong because God knows that we all will feel anticipatory grief at one time or another during the course of our lives. God wants us to cling to the promise that God will never leave us or forsake us. God will surround us with beloved sisters and brothers who too have experienced their own “anticipatory grief” and know what I/what we will need when we are experiencing it in our own lives.

“The story of any of us is in some measure the story of all of us.”–Frederick Buechner

Also please join me at Lesley’s place Life in the Spacious Place today as I am sharing about one of my favorite songs. I’ll give you a hint–I posted the song here in the last week! 🙂 
Come visit me there!!

10 thoughts on “Anticipatory Grief

  1. Anticipatory grief is hard, but I'm grateful for the resurrection hope we have in God and that he gives us community to walk with us. Praying for you and your family today. And thanks for sharing your post on my blog. That song was what I needed today.

  2. Hi Tara! I met you over at Lesley's blog today.
    I'm so sorry about your journey with your mother. You know all about 'anticipatory grief'. I can really relate to that too. My parents were both diagnosed with cancer (at different times) and it was a road to travel for them, but for me too. Thanks be to God who send us people to walk with us, and help us reset and come to peace.

  3. I can really identify with the term "anticipatory grief". Only, as one who struggles with anxiety, much of my "anticipatory grief" is imaginary. I have grief over all the awful things I imagine MIGHT happen. God urges us to live in today for a reason. He gives us grace to handle the moment but not our imagination.

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