In the middle of the night I am sometimes overcome with these intense feelings of fear, fear for me and my loved one’s safety and health, overwhelming sadness for our medical professionals like doctors and nurses who have to return home after spending long hours at the front lines of this pandemic and their own fear of infecting their loved ones or being stigmatized. In those wee hours of the morning you know how one’s mind races with the most gruesome vivid images and scenarios. In those moments, I am experiencing what David Kessler calls “anticipatory grief”. It’s that feeling you get when the future is uncertain, and what you then begin to do is paint the future with the worst-case scenarios. This is the very thing that takes away our sense of security. On my good days I remember that the goal in that moment is not to totally ignore the images or try to make them go away but rather to feel the worst image taking shape all the way to its bitter end. Then immediately thereafter I think of the best-case scenario for that same image. This tends to balance my thinking, keep me in the present and bring back a small modicum of control. Then I think, some of my family members including me will get sick, but my family is generally healthy and strong we should be fine. At this moment, right now, they are well. I revel in that thought and the ability to stay in the present washes a warm sense of calm over me. I don’t always get this right, but when I can control my mind to do so, I pat myself on my proverbial back and return to warm loving sleep.
Are you letting anticipatory grief rob you of your peace and add to the conflict in your relationships?