Anticipatory Grief is the feeling of loss for something or someone that is still there. It’s a phenomenon most often experienced in anticipation of the impending death of a loved one. However, it can be experienced in all sorts of ways and about all manner of things. Even pets and holidays!
Until 2012 I listened to Kermode and Mayo‘s film review podcast every week without fail. I was definitely a keen and dedicated member of the Church of Wittertainment. But one day I stepped away from it and haven’t really listened since.
Why? Did they say something offensive or slag off one of my favourite films?
Well, not exactly. Quite the opposite in fact. A huge wave of anticipatory grief had swept over me and I couldn’t stand the thought that one day it would end. That’s right, I stopped listening to my favourite podcast because I anticipated the horrible thought that, low and behold, it would finish. Someday…it’s six years later and the podcast is still going.
This is a bit of a trivial example of anticipatory grief, but it goes to show the impact it can have on us!
Is Anticipatory Grief Healthy?
It’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing. It’s just a part of our experience as human beings. It seems like it is especially a part of the highly sensitive experience. So how can we live with it? How can we even use it to bring more joy and contentment to life?
Anticipatory grief can bring us to a place of gratitude for what is in front of us right now in this moment. There are parts of it that can teach us what is important and give us an appreciation for the present. It helps us to hold lightly to the things which we have no control over. And it rips away the tendency to take things for granted.
It can be paralysing, and can lead us to actively avoid things that we want to do, because we are afraid of their eventual demise. We might find ourselves withdrawing from important stuff over time. With the podcast example, it led me to self-sabotage. I literally removed something from my life that I loved because I was scared that it would one day end.