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When Someone you Love is Terminally Ill: Anticipatory Grief during the Holidays

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Grief is one of the most powerful emotions we experience. And when a family member has a terminal illness, the grieving process begins even before the loved one has passed. This sense of loss can be even more intense during the holiday season as we reflect the celebrations we’ve enjoyed with our loved ones in the past—and the future celebrations that will never be the same again. Here are some tips on how to process and handle grief during the holiday season.

Understanding Anticipatory Grief

“Anticipatory grief” describes the grief people feel when a loved one only has a certain amount of time left to live. Memories flood our senses as we begin to prepare for future loss. And while this can be a time of great sadness, it is also an opportunity to share stories and memories. Recall childhood experiences, gather more family history, and connect with family and friends over the impact the loved one has had on your life. Do not let fear of the upcoming sadness prevent you from enjoying the time you have left together.

Using Positive Interactions to Reduce Grief

Positive experiences can reduce the overwhelming emotions of grief. During the holiday season, include your loved one in all celebrations as much as they are able. Invite them to assist with traditions such as baking, decorating, or holiday movie-watching. Even if they are unable to be with you in person, they can still join in the festivities by sharing secret family recipes, reading or listening to stories, or by just spending time in quiet conversation.

We’re Here to Help You Grieve

At Hospice of the Piedmont, we understand the grief that you and your loved ones are going through. Our patient and compassionate staff are here to help you navigate the difficult grieving process. At our Center for Grief & Healing , we offer support groups, events, workshops, camps, and individual counseling for those who are grieving—even if your loved one did not receive care with us.


We know that every situation is unique. Families often require a lot of patience and understanding, especially during the holiday season. Our goal is to help you and your loved ones find peace through the knowledge that the bereaved is loved, and not forgotten. To learn more about our services, including our Center for Grief & Healing and our hospice care, visit our website or call (434) 817-6900.

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