Anticipatory Grieving

All losses bring a period of mourning, but this time in one’s life is not static. Looking closely, it’s possible to observe the movement forward, rather like a gentle, flowing stream. If desired, it’s possible to swim along with the flow . On this particular journey mourning flow will bring great resilience or inner strength to the swimmer.”….Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.Ht


When delivering or writing programs for individuals, it’s important to remember that just the thought of living without someone or something can provoke great anxiety. It doesn’t matter if the relationship or habit/behavior isn’t good for that person. The level of grieving can be just as big, if not more than for a happy, healthy relationship, or habit/behavior. Much of this has to do with the individual’s perceived self-image or level of self-esteem. If one has become accustomed to receiving or giving punishment to the Self, then there is a part of the Self that simply wants or needs the pain. Not to have it is interpreted as emptiness or deep sadness. Such was the case of Aida.

Aida was a patient of mine.  She came to the program with the idea of “just finding out what it was all about.”  Her history of failure over the years left her non-believing and non-trusting, but she could “forgive” herself for this, if she attended the program or read the book, etc. Then she was free to “sell herself the story” that this, that or the other just wouldn’t work for her OR she had already tried something she considered “similar.”  Her story tells her that it doesn’t or won’t work. This is simply an inner battle or resistance to change.  It is there to protect her from the sadness that will come from the loss of the negative behaviors. This is a common outcome for so many. so it’s important to understand and pre-empt this part of their behavioral patterns.

Aida was petrified of waking up.  She knew that she was obese, but she would/could defend her patterns to her death. Imagining her life without them and their many facets left her in a state of high anxiety. She didn’t want to think about or feel any part of the perceived loss so she stayed in denial.

Listen to Aida, “I’m simply not ready. Maybe when I can take a long vacation and dedicate some time to myself OR when my daughter goes off to college OR when I win the lottery and don’t have to work for a living.” Of course, the more she defends, the more ridiculous the fantasies. And because she is an intelligent woman, even she is surprised by the caliber of stories she can manufacture. However, it takes a bit of time before she is willing to let me know what she now knows about herself.

Sometimes when writing programs, we feel estranged from our reader or listener, but it’s very important for those of us who work in this writing or coaching genre, to see or sense our audience right before us. Only then can we build the kind of rapport that we need to be able to help them. Keeping Aida’s needs in mind, helps me address issues for a general audience because I’ve witnessed enough of these trends in my private practice to know the very same are harbored in a large percentage of those who will read or listen to my work.

Most of us have heard about the four stages of grieving. Now I’ve added the fifth….anticipatory, which of course, comes first and may contain the other four stages as well. So, even though the loss hasn’t occurred as yet, the resistance to the perceived loss can be huge. The defense mechanism can include denial, isolation of the Self, anger, bargaining and then finally, acceptance.

My job is to move the reader/listener through all stages while in the anticipatory stage. Keep in mind that the individual will not realize that he/she is in a stage of grieving, nor rarely will they choose to admit to “defending.” This would be perceived as “being weak” and is the opposite of what they want. If you’ve ever met, which I’m sure you have, individuals in this position, you might agree that they are not the friendliest beings to be around.

So it’s easy to understand why they can “isolate” so well. It’s key not to back down or to back away when sensing their resistance, EVEN IF you don’t know the individual because you are a writer or teaching through the Internet.  The truth is, that they want you to sense their resistance and help them…….but not to fight with them because that is filled with “judgment”.  This is exactly why their secrets and problems exist in the first place.


Find a time and place  to allow for deep relaxation. All you need to do is to make the place and time ready.  Listen  to the sound of my voice or to read the following. Then go there by memory.

There is no reason to judge because there is nothing to judge. All that is important is what you do from this moment forward. What you are going to do is to awaken. There is nothing frightening about awakening for you do this every morning, only now you are going to awaken to things in your life and behaviors that you have adopted that aren’t helpful. There is nothing you need to do but to simply awaken. Notice how easy it is for you to think in this way….

To awaken means to be aware.  There is nothing frightening about being aware. You practice this thousands of times each day. Think for a moment about the things you were already aware of today…. perhaps this morning…..this afternoon….and right now. What are you aware of right now?

Now I want you to relax deeply into the chair where you are reading or listening to this. Feel how good it feels to give yourself this special time.

In the past, you awakened to many things and then let them go. Notice that you can see some examples of these over there. You are simply watching them and not participating in them because they already happened. If you like, you can watch them on the movie screen behind your eyelids or even sit in the back row. These are things that you let go of in your past. Notice how many of them there are….. some small, others big, but all successfully let go.

And now you have new awakenings that show you additional things that need to be let go. These have to do with secrets that have formed around eating issues or other issues for which you have developed unhealthy coping behaviors or habits. Notice them over there and at the same time notice how these secrets, behaviors and habits keep you locked up in a small corral.  Notice how all parts of you are ready to be free… the parts that you thought were anxious or frightened or grieving letting go are not that at all.  They are simply excited about experiencing health and wellness, for this is what this is about……nothing else. Now, who wouldn’t choose to be healthier and to experience wellness? I’m sure you can agree that you would welcome health and wellness if it came knocking at your door……… notice that it is knocking now. You are answering the door and welcoming it in. Feel the joy as your welcomed visitors enter.”


The above short mind exercise walked the reader/listener through many reframes that allowed for letting go of fear and apprehension about entering change. Obviously, there are many reasons for being anxious and fearful….many having to do with self-image and self-esteem issues, but we can choose not to address them here.  We could decide to make the needed changes be about something that no one will argue about and that is completely unthreatening…… and wellness fall into that category.  In the future, I will be assisting the reader/listener in building their inner core image and esteem, but right now, I want you, the reader or listener to move past the initial grieving into the action.

The next blog will be about the ongoing re-appearance of the grieving process and how you are already in the position to take charge.