This is called Anticipatory Grief. As humans, we often find safety in preparing for the worst. We’re notorious for allowing these thoughts to dampen our joy and take us away from the present moment.
It doesn’t stop there. These ominous images put us in an energy state of sadness, anger and longing before an event has even occurred. Our bodies respond with increased cortisol, shifting the brain into panic mode; all based on a fantasy that (could be) in the near future, or not.
The brain loves questions and will endlessly loop to inquiries like, “Is this really going to last? Will he even be around next year? What will happen to me when this is no longer available?”
Anticipatory grief affects our bodies. It can keep on unwanted weight, trigger chronic aches and pains, deepen wrinkles and tamper with our sleep. It disconnect us from abundance and can lessen the quality and fulfillment of our work.
While this might seem like a consequence of being human, we have the ability to take control. It’s a choice we can make, but we must first gain awareness of the anticipatory grief that circulates our thoughts.
At my last Grief Relief workshop, one of the first women to speak in the circle introduced the phrase “anticipatory grief,” in explaining the pain of watching her parents die.
Everyone in the room nodded emphatically, as if a collective A-ha had occurred. “Yes, that’s happening to me too,” said many participants.
We realized, this is an aspect of grief we don’t talk about and it causes depression in various forms. We discussed, “Why are we choosing to go there? What is it serving? How can we let it go?”
Anticipatory grief puts us in a state of death instead of aliveness. It gives us permission to withdraw from life and repel the ease that’s always available upon choice.
It’s like flying on an airplane, convinced it’s going to crash. The whole flight is white-knuckle-terror which overstimulates the nervous system, disconnects us from body sensations and makes it nearly impossible to appreciate those around us.
When author Brene Brown was interviewed by Oprah, she said, “We’re trying to dress rehearse tragedy so we can beat vulnerability to the punch.” It’s much easier to prepare for the worst, rather than opening to a potentially beautiful situation. She later called joy “the most terrifying, difficult emotion.”
We obviously need some methods for getting to joy.
Allow me to share some tips that I offer in private sessions and group trainings, as the Grief Guide:
—- Express It: If you’re scared to death this will be your last holiday with a friend or family member, then tell them how much they mean to you! Leave nothing unsaid.
— Track It: Awareness is curative. Start noticing and even documenting how often anticipatory grief occurs. Find your triggers and then write them down. Then make a choice to breathe.
— Breathe It: When it comes up, stop and breath slowly and fully. Feel breath circulate throughout your body; knowing that your thoughts are not the truth in this moment.
If properly explored, grief can be absolutely enlightening. In fact, I’ve dreamed of starting a club called AAG: Acknowledge Anticipatory Grief. Every so often, we could get together and chuckle about the advantage we have with this glorious awareness and the tools to transform it.
Join me in accepting joy.
Let’s give this gift to ourselves and others, before it’s too late.
If you’re struggling with the emotional process of grief...
I want to share a free gift with you that can help you recognize the physical, cognitive and emotional reactions you may be experiencing. You’ll also take away prompts to use daily along your journey.
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