During this uncertain time and time of change, it is important to take a moment to share information about anticipatory grief, what it is, possible signs and sources of support and help. Grief is typically associated with loss through a death, but the grief process can follow any type of loss, including losses that may result from COVID-19. The term anticipatory grief is not a new concept as it can relate to what occurs when people are expecting or anticipating the loss of something or someone. For instance, a person may experience anticipatory grief if they are going through a divorce or have received a life-changing medical diagnosis. Some people may experience anticipatory grief as they approach retirement because there is a change occurring and the retirement marks the ending to a chapter in one's life, even though it can be an exciting time as well. Anticipatory grief is relevant to all of us at different points in our lives, and is particularly of interest as we are adapting to changes due to COVID-19 as the concepts related to anticipatory grief can also be applied to what we are experiencing with COVID-19. Therefore, the information contained here really is an overview of anticipatory grief, signs, and how to cope in healthy ways. The information will hopefully be helpful as we deal with COVID-19 changes, and may be of benefit for other life events.
Some of the things that we are grieving as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic include:
- Worry about loved ones
Social distancing, quarantining, and possible feelings of isolation
Changes in daily habits and routines
Special plans and events that have been canceled
Perhaps we are retiring and we are feeling a sense of loss because this is not what we expected for our last year in education
Our students might grieve leaving their classes early, not being able to have some spring and summer sports and activities
Worries about how to pay rent, utilities, and other bills
Sadness over how the pandemic will affect the world
Fears for the futureJob loss
Loss of feelings of safety when in public
These types of triggers can be related to what is called anticipatory grief. It is important that we are all aware that may be experiencing anticipatory grief. Furthermore, knowing of anticipatory grief may help us help others as feelings of anticipatory grief may also be impacting our loved ones, our students, our friends, and our colleagues.
Possible Signs of Anticipatory Grief
Since anticipatory grief may be impacting many of us at this time, it is important to remember that grief is a normal reaction to a loss. We all experience grief at some point in our lives. Following are some signs that you might be coping with anticipatory grief in light of the pandemic:
- Difficulty focusing on normal tasks
- Fatigue or low energy
Sleeping much more or less than usual
Feelings of anger and irritability
Headaches and upset stomach
Re-experiencing feelings of past grief (anticipatory grief brings on other feelings of grief, which can cause your brain to think about previous losses
Engaging in activities such as eating, drinking, or online shopping to cope with stress and anxiety, especially more so than usual
Avoiding thinking or talking about the pandemic
If you notice any of these signs in yourself or loved ones, it is important that you recognize them for what they are and take steps to cope and support yourself or your loved ones.
Positive Ways to Cope
If you recognize any signs of anticipatory grief, it is important that you take steps to help one cope in positive ways. You can engage in the self-care and stress management techniques, such as good sleep hygiene, regular exercise or movement, eating a healthy diet, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mental imagery, autogenic relaxation, celebrating the positives, expressing gratitude, art, listening to or playing music, making time for relationships so we feel connected, and working to create a sense of belonging, which is particularly important right now as we may feel somewhat isolated. Prayer, meditation, and mindfulness are extremely helpful for many when going through the grief process. Please check out the SEL resources and/or PD videos for more information on mental wellness at this link. At times, we may need to reach out to a trusted friend or even a mental health professional when needed. It is important to reach out so that you are healthy, and can even be in a better position to help others when needed.
Supports Are Available
The Coronavirus Pandemic can cause uncertainty so I want to make you aware of supports to help bring about a sense of calm during these storms. Infectious Disease outbreaks like the Coronavirus cause many feelings of distress and anxiety, as well as cause feelings of confusion, being overwhelmed, powerless and scared. These are normal feelings in all of us, even if we are not at high risk. There are many actions we can take to support one another during this time.
The Division of Mental Health & Addiction (DMHA) also recommends that Hoosiers feeling distress or anxiety due to the pandemic call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990.
- Live crisis counseling
Text option is also available: Text “TalkWithUs” to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor
Suicide Prevention Lifeline - The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals Call
Safe School Helpline is a 24/7 communication service that empowers school administrators to make proactive decisions as well as creating reporting responsibilities for students, parents and community members to share in the maintenance of a safe learning environment. This is monitored around the clock so reports can be addressed in a timely manner. Call 1-800-4-1-VOICE x359 to make a report.
P-H-M School Counselors & YSB – If you have students in your life who need supports, please know P-H-M School Counselors at the middle and high school, as well as Youth Service Bureau Specialists, are available during normal school hours if you need additional information or resources. Please reach out to the counselor specifically, or contact the principal at your child or teen's school for non-emergencies. If you do have mental health crisis related to suicide ideation, please call 911 for immediate risks.
Please do not hesitate to reach out for support. They are available to help us through this uncertain time.
More Information is Available on P-H-M’s SEL & Mental Health webpage
For more information on grief with children as well as managing stress related to COVID-19 and talking with your child about COVID-19, please check visit the SEL webpage on P-H-M’s website, or click on the links. Please click here for a link to COVID-19 resources related to managing stress and talking with your child or teen about it.