Growth Tip: Anticipatory grief refers to a feeling of grief occurring before an impending loss. Typically, the impending loss is the death of someone close due to illness.
I remember when my sister got cancer the second time, and the doctor told her they could do nothing more. Even though I was working the 12 steps to my best ability, I got this feeling that was weird and would not go away. I was hoping and praying for a miracle. I was making deals with the Creator. I was acting strong. I was talking hope, but deep down I knew it was over. I felt guilty thinking I will be glad when it is over for her. I was sharing my weird feelings with a friend in the program and it was explained to me this feeling is called Anticipatory Grief. It’s a feeling that some people get when they know death of a loved one is going to happen. It is different than grief after a person dies, this is like a pre-grief.
I have moments of this feeling going on now with the COVID-19 crisis. They are predicting large scale death. I am anticipating getting a call that it will be someone close to me, someone, I know, friend, family, but I am preparing myself.
The Healing Forest Graphic shows the hurt is deep down in our community roots. That is where the Intergenerational Trauma is hidden. The cause behind Anticipatory Grief is fear which can be in two categories: 1. We are not going to get something we want or 2. We are going to lose something we have.
Talking to a few Elders, they shared this happened to our ancestors with smallpox, Trail of Tears, the Long Walk, the Pueblo War, the hunting of Native in California, etc. By 1920 99% of the Native people had been killed off by Genocide. This Intergenerational Trauma is passed down through the DNA from one generation to the next if healing has not taken place.
Will this Epidemic be causing trauma inside ourselves because it happened to our ancestors?
We may be facing death in our Native Communities and experiencing Anticipatory grief. We need to make sure our mental health workers, our counseling professional can help us process through this Epidemic. We need to count on our culture, ceremonies, prayer, and spirituality to carry us through.
What does one do if you feel you have this grief before the grief? Talking to counselors or an Elder is always a positive step. To use our medicine is also a good step. We are looking for a safe place to go when uncertainty occurs. We are looking for the LOVE place. Our medicine takes us there. Smudge with sage, cedar, sweetgrass, cedar baths, or other culture medicines. Pray in the mornings to the 4 directions, sing your morning songs, your healings songs, etc. find that place where fear cannot exist. Gratitude is a medicine that helps us to focus on our blessings.
This virus is spread by breath and touch. Try to stay away from other human beings when possible, wear a mask to keep from giving it to someone else, and wash hands frequently. Isolate if you can if you have symptoms.
Even though we are in isolation, as humans, we can still stay in contact socially with those we love, telephone, Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, etc. We can see each other. This is for a short time, but a time of testing. We need one another to make it through this time of testing. We ARE all connected, all over the Earth.
If there are professional mental health workers in Indian Country that would like to attend a Zoom meeting to share ideas of what you are doing or want to know what others are doing to help process grief from this virus, send your email and contact information to and we will set up a meeting.