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Anticipatory Grief: Facing Loss and the Unknown During COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted almost everyone in some way. Maybe you know someone who contracted the virus. Perhaps you had to file for unemployment. Or it could be that you’ve been impacted in other ways by having to deal with some other losses throughout this pandemic.

While people have had different experiences throughout COVID-19, most of us can agree that these are uncertain times.

That uncertainty can cause a fear of the unknown. Because there are still so many unknown factors about this virus and what will happen in the future, it can lead to something called anticipatory grief.

What Is Anticipatory Grief?

Unlike the grief you might experience after the loss of a loved one, anticipatory grief occurs before a significant loss.

How can you grieve something you haven’t lost yet? First, it’s important to note that this type of grief covers a variety of losses. Maybe you feel you’re going to lose your job soon. Perhaps your pet is getting old, and you’re already grieving their death even though it hasn’t happened.

When it comes to COVID-19, anticipatory grief can occur if you know someone who is sick or is at a higher risk of getting sick. It can also happen if you’re worried you might lose your job. Or, if this pandemic will impact your relationships and you’ll lose friends or your partner.

Anticipatory grief impacts people differently. For some, it can be even worse and harder to deal with than the actual loss when it happens.

Does It Make the Grieving Process Easier?

Grief is unique to each person. Because of that, it’s impossible to say whether anticipatory grief shortens the grieving time or allows the process to be “easier.” However, it does provide an opportunity to experience closure before an actual loss occurs. That can make acceptance an easier target to reach.

For example, if you know someone with COVID-19, anticipatory grief might move you to settle your differences, or tell them how you feel. It might be a turning point for your relationship. If that person takes a turn for the worse, anticipatory grief allows you to find that closure if they pass from the illness.

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of anticipatory grief are often very similar to others throughout the grieving process. Some of the most common signs include:

  • Fear
  • Loneliness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • The desire to open up to someone
  • Guilt

You might also find yourself visualizing the loss before it happens. If you’re worried about losing a loved one to COVID-19, anticipatory fear might make you think about it. Unfortunately, that often adds to the fear and anxiety you might already be feeling about that person and a possible loss.

How to Deal With Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is often a natural part of the general grieving process. But, if it starts to hinder your life or becomes debilitating, you might need to seek out support or treatment to get through it.

 

Don’t be afraid to share your feelings during your anticipatory grief. Turn to people you love and trust and express yourself. Just talking about it can help you feel better and guide you through the stages of grief healthily.

If you’re struggling with grief or a loss, feel free to contact me. Counseling for loss is one of the most effective ways to get through the grieving process, even if you’re just worried about what’s ahead.

The desire to talk to someone and open up is one of the most common symptoms of anticipatory grief. You can find comfort and peace of mind when talking about where you are in the grieving process, and counseling is a great way to do that. Please reach out to me today — I want to help.

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Grief

Ben Carrettin – Loss and Grief Counseling

 

Has a Recent Death in the Family or the Decline in a Loved One’s Health Left You with Feelings of Emptiness, Grief or Despair?

Have you recently lost someone you love to an illness or accident? Has this sudden separation left a void in your life, and you’re struggling to feel whole again? Perhaps a loved one has taken his or her life and you are trying to deal with feelings of guilt and depression as a survivor of suicide. Has a loved one’s absence either through illness or death created a hole that you cannot or do not want to fill? Is there a stillness in your life that keeps you awake, tossing and turning at night? Perhaps you are caring for someone whose health is slipping away everyday, and you are struggling to balance hope with the reality of impermanence. Do you wish you could feel like you were standing on solid ground again, seeing the world as it is, and not through the veil of grief and loss?

Loss floods us with emotions of fear, guilt, anger, grief and despair. Suddenly the person who you thought would always be there is gone, yet reminders of him or her are everywhere you look. The house feels a lot bigger than it once did, and an incredible stillness and silence lingers uninterrupted in every room. You might see the world without color, in shades of gray. Food has no flavor. Pleasure has no appeal. The sun shines and you can’t see it. The rain falls and you can’t feel it. You might feel trapped in quicksand, and every effort to escape only drags you deeper down. You wait for time to heal all, but it doesn’t, and everyday becomes more difficult, confusing and meaningless than the last. There is a gaping wound in your soul that you either can’t close or do not want to heal. And while you want to feel whole again, the physical emptiness left by your loss has been replaced with a greater, existential emptiness.

Grief and Loss Affects Almost Everyone at Some Point in Their Lives

Grief is one of the most common emotions humans feel. At some point in life, we all experience feelings of emptiness, loneliness and even abandonment as a result of a loved one’s death. But, feelings of grief and loss can also be a result of a dramatic social change. Leaving everyone you love to move to a new city or country, having a spouse abandon the family or losing your home and possessions to a fire or natural disaster can cause significant emotional trauma. While grieving is a natural and healthy part of the healing process, many people can begin to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety and trauma. The fear of the new unknown, the stress of facing the world alone or the sheer sadness caused by of a loved one’s absence can erode your strength and perseverance and even adversely affect your health. The good news is that grief is a natural part of life, and there is help and hope. With the support and guidance of a compassionate and understanding therapist, you can work through your loss and resolve feelings of confusion, grief and even anger.

Grief Counseling and Emotional Trauma Therapy Can Help You Find Strength and Wholeness Again

The sudden absence of a family member, friend or significant other can elicit extreme grief, fear, depression, anxiety, apathy and even anger and resentment. Despite our knowledge of our own mortality, actually witnessing the decline of life and death can be a world-shaking experience, especially when someone is ripped out of our lives. Fortunately, grieving is a normal and healthy healing mechanism. And, in warm, safe and confidential grief therapy sessions, I can help you sort through challenging emotions and regain a sense of normalcy and wholeness again.

I believe in inclusivity, and will meet you where you are regardless of religion, spiritual practice, sexual orientation, culture or political position. In a comfortable and safe, living room-style environment, we can explore the thoughts, feelings and problems that are burdening you daily. By addressing your loss directly, I can help you regain a sense of clarity and help you develop ways to re-engage and reconnect with life. Through a combination of conversational techniques and a mindfulness approach, I can help you confront your grief, manage your loss and renew your engagement in the present moment.

I have been providing grief and loss counseling as a standard part of my practice since I began helping people with cancer and medical trauma in 1992. I understand the devastating impact that loss can have on individuals and families. But, I also know that there is help, healing and hope. With a kind, conversational and mindfully guided approach, I can help you process your loss and regain your sense of self and wholeness.

You Still May Have Questions or Concerns About Grief Counseling…

I’m afraid of the emotions I might encounter if I talk about my loved one’s absence.

Confronting death can be a terribly frightening ordeal that requires incredible courage and strength. Whether watching someone slowly decline in health or having a loved one pass suddenly, the emotions we experience can be so overwhelming that we want to avoid thinking about them. But, avoidance can create other problems. Despair, depression, anxiety and apathy can cause you to withdrawal from those still around you, slowly eroding at the wonderful life you still have. By gently confronting your vulnerabilities and exploring your emotions, I can help gain clarity and confidence about the future.

If therapy is successful, am I erasing the person I lost from my life?

Grief therapy will never erase someone from your life. Loss is like a deep scar. It heals and it even fades, but it never goes away. It lives with us as a reminder of the past. Even though it is always there, eventually the pain of the wound subsides, and even the sight of the scar fades. Grief and emotional trauma therapy can help you to understand the difference between forgetting someone and letting him or her go. In our sessions I can help you move forward with your own life while acknowledging and celebrating the precious one you lost.

I don’t need counseling; I should be able to work through this on my own.

Loss is one of the many powerful things that make us equal. And, it takes strength and resilience to face death or loss. Just by seeking grief counseling you are already taking the first bold step toward healing yourself. Seeking help is a sign of not being broken or weak. Rather, it truly is a sign of strength. With grief and loss counseling I can help you empower yourself, and find strength, hope and peace in the present moment.

You Can Find Purpose, Healing and Wholeness in the Midst of Sorrow…

You don’t have to work through these difficult times alone. I invite you to call me for a free 15-minute consultation at (346)-493-6181. I would be happy to talk through any questions you have about my practice or grief and loss counseling.

 

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.