Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | RSSAnticipatory grief is a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss, typically, the death of someone close to you. This episode is about how us HSPs can experience this grief more than others, and not just about death.
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Podcast music attribution: By the Coast (2004) (Antony Raijekov) / CC BY-NC 2.5
Anticipatory grief? That explains a lot of things for me too, perhaps?
Just a silly idea 🙂 If you get a tortoise or a parrot they can usually live long enough to outlive humans, so you may not have to mourn thier death.
ONe other even more silly idea: If you can percieve time as this circular unending phenonemon (where past present and future all exist at the same time), as opposed to how it is actually experinaced as this liniar movement of this “now ” we call the present mving way from the past towards the future, this can help create a sense of peace, because within this (imagined) world everything and everone that ever was, still is (in a time outside of the time we now call now). With this model of “time” everone that you love and care about exists and always will exist forever, even if they don’t exist in our experinace of what we percieve to be “now” for us.
In this state of mind you can “time travel” forward or backwards to visit freinds and loved ones long gone, or see parents or grandparents as young adults, or see our children as grown ups etc. Of course this could be nothing more than merely existential philosophical speculation from my imagination, but the idea of liniar time vs non-liniar, or circular time is something that has been exploreered by thinkers such as plato, aristotle or nietzsche, as “external return”, or “eternal reoccurance”. As i type this reply wondering whether to send it or not, I also ask myself how many times i have (or will) think this and which decision i make this time. Will i post this reply or delete it?
Somehow these thoughts relate to grief and also anticipatory grief, but im not sure how. Perhaps this idea of circular time makes all living things kind of imortal and immune to “death” ( even if this is only from an imagined perspective)?
Hi Marc, thank you for sharing this. This is an interesting concept that I’ve never thought about. I’m sure I’d need to spend some time letting my mind get used to it because it’s quite different than how we normally think. Thanks again–I like to try to “expand” my mind and find new ways of dealing with things. Have a great day.
This makes so much sense. Even as a child I was terrified of how I would possibly live without my parents. I had pretty severe separation anxiety and I thought I wouldn’t survive one of my parent’s death. I lived with this fear for nearly 56 years until my mom died and what I found out was that it was of course unbelievably hard and I am strong and I could and can survive a loss. In fact, I’ve always been so aware of the loss that I unknowingly have always been pretty good at grief – meaning I can live with loss and cry and mourn and still be ok. My unbelievably wonderful dog who was a healing dog and so loving died 6 months after my mom died so losing them both was tough but again I learned I can live with and through it. Anticipatory grief does sometimes grab me into its net of fear – like I start to worry or catastrophize but now when I notice I’m doing it I I can tell myself to stop it or at least to have compassion for myself and live with what is real right now in this moment rather than the fear of what’s to come.
Wow! I didn’t think that it was just me who thought about this anticipatory grief . This may seem too morbid, but I actually think about what I would say at the funeral of someone I loved. I would say how that person made a difference in my life and that I am thankful to have had that person in my life. It somehow comforts me.
Hi Val. That is great that that comforts you! I wish it did for me…I have also thought about funerals, but they make me sad.
Haha, I haven’t even looked at the picture, but just your description of the picture frame made me well up!
This is definitely a topic I can relate to, I always seem to be mourning things before they are actually over, and it totally gets in the way of enjoying them in the first place – it just seems so insane! The example that always sticks in my mind is when my husband (then my boyfriend) and I went to Iceland for the weekend. It was our first ever trip away together and it was so exciting, but we literally had two days in which to enjoy being in Iceland, and both days we had already packed with planned excursions which meant we had to get up really early. We got there really late on the first night, and I couldn’t help worrying and getting upset that “we really should go to bed straight away because we have to get up really early and then we’re out all day and back late so again we should go to bed straight away again as we have to be up early again the next day and we’re out all day again and then have an early flight the next morning and then back to work the next day…”! In my head the entire weekend was over and I was back at my desk when in reality we’d only just set foot in our hotel room! (I think this also relates to what you said in one of the early podcasts about getting stressed by having plans and enjoying the prospect of a nice empty day).
I curled up on the bed trying to fight back tears – partly to do with the grief, and partly with frustration at myself for my stupid brain causing me to ruin our first weekend abroad together – and when my boyfriend asked what was wrong I did my best to explain without sounding like an idiot. To my surprise and eternal gratitude, instead of getting frustrated with me or not understanding, he knelt down beside the bed to be on the same level, looked me in the eyes and told me he loved me, and asked me to marry him :’-) I try to think back to that when I’m pre-emptively mourning something now.
Oh my gosh, I did not expect that ending to that story!!!!! I love it! ha ha! What a sweet guy. Thank you for sharing this. I *completely* understand your anticipatory grief regarding your vacation!
I so relate to this! My husband thinks I have a morbid obsession with my first “son” Clyde’s impending death. To be clear, Clyde is my 13 year old rescue pup and he is in excellent health (considering he is 105+ in dog years). I’ve tried to explain that I’m trying to prepare myself for the inevitable loss and enjoy every day that I have him here with me still. No one else seems to get that. Clyde is highly sensitive, too. He is not fearful, but very cautious and other people have commented that he has “human eyes”. He just gets it, and gets me. The way I think about this loss is that I have been so fortunate to have him in my life for as long as I have and that I have made his life as happy as possible and that he knows he is truly loved.
Almost 9 years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I woke up at 4 am with just this overwhelming feeling of peace. It was pretty awesome. I remember it because a few hours later I received a phone call informing me that my little brother (he was 24) had died in the night of a drug/alcohol overdose. He had recently completed rehab. Of course, I was heartbroken and mourned intensely for several hours. I looked at all the photos I had and read all the letters I had from him when he was away at reform/boarding school and while I was in the military. He had struggled with drugs and alcohol from a very early age. He was certainly a HSP as well. As a young child, he would break out in hives due to the stress caused by my parents emotionally volatile relationship. I always knew he was a kindred spirit and I tried my best to be his shelter in the storm to the extent that I could be, being 7 years older than him. Anyway, I felt (and still feel) that I woke up with the sense of peace when his soul was free from his troubled life. And the way I see it is that I was so blessed to have had the 24 years with him. While I would miss him, and my children would never know him, he is free from his troubles and pain, and that is what I really want for him. I know that I told him frequently that I loved him. He showed me the magnitude of the gift I was receiving in my first baby. He taught me to remember that each day is a gift and no matter what day to day difficulties there may be, that my job is to love and protect my little ones. That every day is a gift and tomorrow is not guaranteed (more anticipatory grief) to be in the moment and present today. So, while loss can be crushing, I try to celebrate that it is only because I have been blessed to have loved (and been loved) so much and so deeply that it hurts so badly. And the pure pain passes.
In my house, weekends are bittersweet. I am learning more ways to try to enjoy being in the moment. My middle child is so very sensitive. He will ask,”today is what day?” I tell him, “Friday, and tomorrow will be soccer Saturday, then Sunday.” And he will ask,”are those stay at home days?” I confirm. The next question is “and then we go back to school?” Again, I confirm, followed by his crying. And this is on Friday afternoon!
Thank you for sharing, LisaW. This was lovely. 🙂
Wow, I had tears streaming down my face by the end of this podcast! I never met anyone else who reacts so ‘weirdly’ to thoughts about death, so part relief and part just, you know, anticipatory grief in general. Like you Kelly i’m lucky to have had no close losses, but cannot bear to think of the inevitable for the pain but frequently find my thoughts there, often in the middle of the night. I don’t know how many times I’ve “Don’t die!”-ed my husband! When my first child (thanks to whom i’ve discovered that he and I are HSPs) was born, I felt the same as you did about your dog, both about his death (tho I won’t be there to witness it) and that I won’t see him grow old cos of my own death. Then trying to find the balance of letting my piglets grow free and bold and protecting them from horrible accidents – tragic flash forwards are common too, and there I do opt for distraction, distraction, distraction!
I’ve spent my first 40 years trying to squash these feelings down, and now i’m allowing myself to feel them, I see how they’ve been trying to come out in other strange ways too. I resonate with the midpoint holiday countdown grief, the last day is just a teary mess, holiday blues after etc.
What I’m still trying to figure out is the grief I feel at getting rid of things, or just anticipating that act, even things there is no conscious emotional attachment to. Does anyone else feel this?
I think these feelings need to come out, even though they may have picked tenuous triggers, be it clutter, sad movies, songs or books, and I’ve started using tapping to calm down the grief as I’m feeling it. It both validates the feelings and reduces the intensity without repressing it.
On the other hand, I notice a coping strategy i’ve developed for friends leaving (im a Brit in Spain, this happens often) is I check out of the relationship once I know they’re leaving, so I can get used to them not being around while they still are…not very healthy, I know it’s far better to be live and love, Brene Brown speaks eloquently about this and living “whole heartedly”.
I’m so happy to have stumbled upon your podcast – i read the list and identify with all topics! – looking forward to delving deeper 🙂 Thank you Kelly!
Thank you for the kind comments Becca! Oh my gosh, I kind of do this too: “I notice a coping strategy i’ve developed for friends leaving is I check out of the relationship once I know they’re leaving, so I can get used to them not being around”.
I loved reading your comment and felt I could relate so much. I would like to learn more about tapping, actually. It’s interesting what you said about getting rid of things. I sometimes enjoy the feeling of throwing away old things, but I like to keep mementos, too. But for what? I’m not sure.
Kelly, I’ve been following you for the last month or so.
What a wonderful project you have here!
Anticipatory grief is a topic I take to heart – I remember crying, as a child, whenever I’d realize that vacation was half over. And if I’d seen that picture frame it would’ve gotten to me, too.
I’ve only ever found discussions of thing in philosophy or psychology texts – but for HSPs it’s a much more everyday experience. So thank you for making it easier to talk about.
Your voice is greatly needed. Keep fighting the good fight!
Thank you for the lovely comment, Robyn!!
I’ve been listening to several of your podcasts this evening. This one in particular hit home for me. I completely understand this topic! And, it made me feel good knowing it IS an “HSP thing” and I’m not the only one. I constantly am thinking of how I’ll handle it if my husband dies, or other loved ones or friends, processing through those feelings of grief! But, recently I was able to see both sides of this. My mom had terminal cancer for 7 years. And, as she got towards the end, I sensed it was coming (my dad and others close to her did not). And, I had been for many years “preparing” myself for losing her. And, while this was true of everyone around her, we knew it was coming someday, I always felt I was more “in tune” with it than others. And, when she did finally pass away last October, everyone was completely shocked how well I did. But, I’d anticipated it, I had already processed some of the grief, so I wasn’t in complete shock, I had known it was coming, and had been able to lessen the intensity in the moment. I certainly have grieved,and I’m not suggesting it’s been an easy road, but I will assure anyone who has anticipated grief, but hasn’t experienced the actual loss yet, I have survived, and must better than anticipated! Now having listened to this, I wonder if that wasn’t because I’m an HSP. I’ve said this to friends and family and they seem confused and as if they don’t really understand what I’m saying when I say “Because I grieved the loss of my mom before she died, once she was actually gone it was easier to face”…and perhaps that’s because as an HSP, we’re able to fully FEEL those emotions, even before the loss occurs. (it also helped that she, too, was an HSP and we discussed these things often).
Thanks for this podcast and the great work you’re doing! It’s so great knowing I’m in like company! 😉
Thanks for the kind comment, Megan! I’m so sorry about your mom.
Oh my… Yes, I do this and thought it was “just” PTSD. Love the idea from Elaine Aron to picture the grief on the other side of a glass door. I have tears welling up right now, and am thankful to understand this part of being an HSP.