Anticipatory grief is a rather new concept. According to the Encyclopedia of Death and Dying,
psychiatrist Eric Lindemann was the first to describe the concept of anticipatory grief, and
perhaps he was seeing the impact of families worried about their sons and daughters serving in
Lindemann defined anticipatory grief, "as a progression through the stages of grief, including
depression, heightened preoccupation with the departed, a review of all the forms of death which
might befall him, and anticipation of the modes of readjustment which might be necessitated by
Lindemann pointed out both advantages and disadvantages to anticipatory grief, with a major
disadvantage being a premature withdrawal from the dying person.
The Encyclopedia points out that this concept represents an issue which is growing in importance
since advanced medical technology is stretching the amount of time between diagnosis and and
The authors say, "Because of medical advances, dying has become more of a gradual process;
debilitation is extended and quality of life has improved. There is a longer time during which
families and the patient can experience anticipatory grief."
More recent authors like Therese A. Rando have defined anticipatory grief as "the phenomenon
encompassing the process of mourning, coping, interaction, planning, psychosocial reorganization
that are stimulated and begin in part in response to the awareness of the impending loss of a loved
one." (Rando 1986, p.24).
There is disagreement in the literature about the impact of anticipatory grief on the grief process
which happens after the actual death.
Some experts say anticipatory grief makes post death grief shorter, other experts say anticipatory
grief enhances premature detachment and abandonment of the patient as death approaches.
Anticipatory grief can facilitate the process of talking about unfinished business in life, and death
can then happen in a more peaceful manner.
Phases in Anticipatory Gri