griefAnticipatory grief is a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss, typically, the death of someone close to you. Anyone can experience it.

But for HSPs, anticipatory grief can be more than that.

I’ve mentioned before that I have not yet lost anyone very close to me in my lifetime. I know that some day it will happen, and I fear how I will react. I fear the pain I will experience then, because it will be so, so bad.

Now, to a non-HSP, or someone who doesn’t have anticipatory grief, this may sound silly. Why would I waste energy worrying about something I have no control over?

Dr. Elaine Aron says that she’s noticed HSPs “look ahead” in many ways, especially to things they will have to cope with, including loss.

She gives an example of how she started feeling sad about a vacation ending–halfway through that vacation. I experienced the same exact thing a few years ago. Jim and I went away for two weeks, and I felt like I could barely enjoy it because I knew in a few short days, I’d be back at work. I was so annoyed at myself for feeling that way!

And remember when I was thinking about getting a dog? Before I even got one, I was thinking about it dying! (wtf, right!?) Dogs have short lifespans, so I knew I’d be taking on an animal to love and someday dealing with its death. (As I look at my little furball curled up on the floor next to me, there’s a lump in my throat.)

Aron writes this perfect paragraph: “Most of us have thought about how we would manage if we lost someone important in our lives, but I suspect HSPs have given more thought to that–not just the practical side if the person was gone, but the emotional hole that would be left. We work on it, hoping to find a certain sense of resolution or reassurance that we would survive. Maybe we look ahead to it being horribly hard…For others, grief and its outcome often seem to come as almost a complete surprise (unless we bring the subject up).” source

You’ve done it again, Dr. Aron. HIT THAT NAIL ON THE DAMN HEAD.

I’ve imagined for a few moments what would happen if my husband died. (I don’t even like typing those words!) I think he has found me crying more than once after letting my imagination go too far down that path.

Dr. Aron says one way to handle anticipatory grief is by imagining the grief through a glass door (you can do the same thing with aging!). We can see the grief outcome, but we are not living with it yet. 

How do you experience anticipatory grief?

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