Anticipating the loss of someone you love is a terrifying and traumatic time. The person may have a life threatening or terminal illness. You are torn in two: one side is full of hope and trust that the person will survive, the other  full of fear and dread that he or she may not.

Anticipatory grief is a terrible place of limbo between knowing and not knowing.

The time between knowing and not knowing is a silent grief that you often choose not to talk about. If you keep it to yourself, you believe that in some way, you won’t bring about the worst, an outcome that you can barely manage to think about. If you can just try harder, just pray harder or believe more, maybe you can make a difference.

You feel isolated and know that no one in the world understands what you are going through. Friends only want to help, even though you know there’s nothing they can do that would help unless they could heal your loved one and make them well again, which they can’t.

Anticipating a loss can be just as powerful as a loss itself. You are not ready to let your loved one go. There can be feelings of guilt that you are grieving before a loss occurs. You may feel that you need to prepare yourself for the worst, but you don’t want to lose hope or faith.

In anticipatory grief, you may experience all of the emotional stages of grief, which may include, anger, blame, guilt, hopelessness, depression, sadness, disbelief, regret, loss of control, shock, loneliness and pain. Living in this state of heightened emotions for a prolonged period of time takes it toll on you.

Anticipatory grief also affects the person who is dying. The person is fighting for life and hope, against fear, anger and desperation. You your this person feel like you can’t discuss these feelings with each other, for fear of speaking the unspeakable. For fear that if you talk about it, it will make it real.

I suggest that instead of hiding, talk about everything. Talk about the possibilities. Be honest with each other as a family. You do not always need to keep a brave face. Tell your loved one if you feel scared, confused, or sad too.

They may just tell you some things that ease your mind, and will help with this process a little. Talk about everything before it’s too late and you are left with regrets. Spend this time together and try through your pain to make it into the precious time it could be, a time to get closer.

These last days, weeks or months will be what you are left with in your most recent memories. You will go over and over them in detail in your head after a loss and you must know that you said everything you wanted to say.

Acceptance does not mean losing faith or giving up hope. Try to find a place for both to live alongside each other.

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Leila Summers

Leila Summers lives in Durban, South Africa with her two daughters, three dogs and four cats. Leila enjoys reading and writing and has a passion for research. Her particular interests include the topics of relationships, children, spirituality, death, grief and loss. Her first book, It Rains In February, is to be published in 2011. Leila’s compassionate and empathetic resonance for people and animals shines through in everything she does. She has touched the hearts of woman she has worked with over the past twenty years. In theology school, at the very young age of twenty, she held the position of student pastor, where she addressed large audiences, and of house-mother where she was counselor to around thirty women each year. She also served as a group leader at seminars on leadership training and as a telephone help-line counselor. Leila is a natural net worker and has run woman’s groups for several years, holding inspirational evenings which include collage, vision boards, talks, spiritual cinema circles and book clubs at the Sentinel Center for Transformational Therapies in Durban, South Africa. Leila has always had a passion for research, storytelling and writing. She belongs to the South African Writers Circle. She has written several articles and essays that have been self-published on the Internet with the aim of helping others. As a homeschooler, she has written articles and shared her knowledge through her personal homeschooling website for the past five years and two of these articles were published in the Mums Mail magazine. As a widow, she began writing articles on dealing with grief and loss and has published these articles on several websites to help those who have also experienced the death of a loved one. Visit her website,

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