Anticipatory Grief

My latest guest post at The Caregiver Space.  :) 


In 2009, musician Mat Kearney released a song titled “Closer to Love”. I was pretty sure the first two verses were written exclusively for me:

She got the call today

One out of the gray

And when the smoke cleared

It took her breath away


She said she didn’t believe

It could happen to me

I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees.


This was the same year I actually received that dreaded phone call which quite literally dropped me to my knees.  I sat in a crumbled heap on my kitchen floor, with tears pouring down my face, as I listened to my parents tell me that my mom had cancer.  Terminal cancer.  Three months to live.

In reality, Mat Kearney could write that verse because so many people have had the experience of that phone call.  If you’ve ever received the call…you know the feeling.  It could be cancer or multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease or congestive heart failure or insert any number of terrifying words that make it clear in one moment, that life, as we know it, has changed forever.

When the shock wears off, grief often settles in, although sometimes we don’t truly recognize it for what it is.  We tend to attribute grief to the loss we feel after losing someone we love.  However, anticipatory grief comes prior to the actual loss.  Without an understanding of anticipatory grief, it can be quite confusing.  When my mom was dying I couldn’t understand how I could grieve over her while she was still here.  All these years later, looking back, I wonder, how could one NOT grieve in anticipation of a loss they know is coming?

Kelli Barr-LylesComment