Grief, loss and bereavement

3. Feelings after a diagnosis of dementia

When someone has been diagnosed with dementia, they and the people close to them may have feelings of grief and loss, such as anger, denial or helplessness. It can help to talk about these feelings when you feel ready. You could talk to a friend, family member, or a professional such as a counsellor or psychotherapist.

Anticipatory grief

People with dementia and their carers sometimes go through feelings of grief when they think about how dementia might develop and imagine the changes and losses it may cause. These changes may affect the person’s physical and mental abilities, relationships and future plans.

This type of grief – thinking ahead to things that may happen – is known as ‘anticipatory’. A person in the early or middle stages of the condition may experience this. As a carer you may grieve at any time as the person’s dementia progresses.

Some evidence suggests that carers who experience anticipatory grief may cope better with grief after the person dies, though this may still be painful. For some people, anticipatory grief may also increase the possibility of becoming depressed. It can help to talk about these feelings while you are still caring for the person with dementia.

Of course it is not possible to know exactly how dementia is going to affect someone. Although it can be helpful to think ahead, try to also reflect on the time that you have with the person in the here and now.