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Anticipatory Grief Essay

1469 words - 6 pages

Grief is a universal reaction experienced by all of us at some time in our lives. The capacity that makes each of us capable of warm, satisfying relationships also leaves us vulnerable to sadness, despair, and grief when such relationships are disrupted (Carr, 1969). Regardless of the actual relationship that might have existed prior to the death, we have the tendency to idealize the relationship once death has occurred and we expect expressions of normal grief. Unfortunately, "normal grief' is what society expects, but the needs of the individual prerequisites putting a label on grief. Because society influences our behavior through the secondary reinforcement of social approval during this time, we are not looking at the primary reinforcer of survival. The needs of each individual can only be understood in the light of knowledge of his/her own developmental background and the particular conflicts being mobilized, and what defenses are being used against these (Maddison & Raphael, 1972). This same developmental background is important in another aspect of death called anticipatory grief.

The term anticipatory grief was first used by Lindemann in 1944 to " ... denote a reaction to separation and the possibility of death rather than the inevitability of death" (Bourke, 1984). Over the years there has been much discussion and research has been done on anticipatory grief. But to this point research evidence is inconsistent. All research points to the fact that anticipated losses that face the individual are very real. "Their emotional investment in the individual's presence, the satisfactions and warmth that they have received through their attachment to her or him, are soon to be ended"(Kalish, 1977).

Since Lindemann (1944) coined the phrase "anticipatory grief” there has been research done to try to prove whether anticipatory grief hinders, helps, or ought to be even connected with conventional grief, the grief experienced after the loss of the individual. When examining whether anticipatory grief hinders conventional grief, Clayton, Halikas, Maurice, and Robbins (1973) found more depressive symptoms in the first month of bereavement in women who had experienced anticipatory grief. This would coincide with the theory of learned helplessness. If we cannot control our environment (death of a loved one) then we are at the mercy of the environment. For this reason there is no contingency between our response and the consequences. This leads to associative, motivational, and emotional deficits. The individual has no motive for anything, is under extreme stress, and becomes depressed, all leading to learned helplessness. In other words, our world has turned upside down and we have no control over it. Researchers also found that after one year these widows were no better off than widows who lacked such preparation.

In a study done by Gilliland and Fleming (1998), three groups of spouses, were looked at to see if anticipatory grief and...

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