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August 3, 2015
by Henry M. Pittman, MA

Anticipatory Grief: An experience of Bobbi Kristina Brown's family.

August 3, 2015 07:59 by Henry M. Pittman, MA  [About the Author]

As we enter this world as an infant, we grow, we learn, we get older, and we eventually die. It’s the natural order of life. One does not know when he or she will die or how he or she will die, yet we know that day is coming. For some individuals that day comes sooner than later as it did for Bobbi Kristian Brown. On July 26, 2015, Bobbi Kristina Brown the only child from pop icon Whitney Houston and R&B Singer Bobby Brown died that Sunday night. She was 22 years of age.

Recent Events

January 31, 2015 Bobbi Kristina Brown was found face down in bathtub filled with water. Emergency Medical Services (Frances, 2015) immediately took her to North Fulton Hospital and placed in a medically induced coma. The purpose was to prevent any additional swelling of the brain. Bobbi Kristina was placed on life support at the Emory University Hospital. "Despite the great medical care at numerous facilities, Bobbi Kristina Brown's condition has continued to deteriorate," said a statement signed by Pat Houston, Bobbi Kristina's aunt, the executor of Whitney's estate (Oldenburg & Puente, 2015).” Later on she was moved to hospice care. Since Bobbi Kristina’s condition was not getting better and she has been in the hospital for pass six months, was the grief process any “easier” for the family and love ones?

Anticipatory Grief

Historically, according to Carr (2012) death was sudden in the 19th centuries which were characterized by death being at the person’s or a love one’s home and usually young. As time moved on physicians began taking control and individuals were not dying at home and instead in hospitals or facilities. As people are living longer with illness in our contemporary society, love one’s and family member are now returning to dying one’s home. For the family members and love ones this called anticipatory grief. This is a phenomena were a person knows that a love one is dying however the time is uncertain. There are psychological pros and cons anticipatory grief.

In school the teacher would give out a syllabus. The syllabus had all of the assignments and dates of the test. So the student knew when the test was going to be administered which gave some relieve. The relief came from preparation of the anticipating test. As with Bobbi Kristina Brown or any other love one who health is fading and death is certain, it allowed time for psychological preparation. This gives family and/or love one time to adjust psychologically to the acceptance and realization that his person is going to die in the near future and what that means to them. In other words, how will this death affect my life such as not having a friend, a spouse, a parent, a siblings or other roles? The grief process can begin and when death comes, the intensity of the death grief is lessen.

On the other end, anticipating the loss of a love one can be a psychological nightmare. Adult children who parents are ill and dying are the common norm. There are support groups to assist with the psychological adjustment. In additional there are other family members and/or friends that have lost their parents and are able to give support which assist with the grieving process. However, what about when dying one is a child or a young adult? Carr (2012) called this phenomena “Off time.” This when an individual that died or dying is out of sync with normal order. Where is the family support now, for the death or dying of a child or young adult? Most individual’s children do not die before the parent. This is where psychological adjustment becomes stressful. In addition there was no preparation for this type of young lost.

Another factor that mitigates adaptive or maladaptive anticipatory grief is the situation or circumstance of how the prolong death occurred. For example, a child is diagnosis with cancer at age 4, goes in to a comma and dies six months later. The family was not prepared psychologically to have their child at age 4 to be diagnosis with cancer. That is a disease that elder people obtained and is expected. Take the same family, and their 4 year old sustained a brain injury at daycare during the child’s routine play time. The child goes into a coma and dies six months later. The psychological response is going to different, in which situation and circumstance of on the onset of illness is a factor for anticipatory grief.

The Result Can Be Good or Bad

CDC (2015) reported that 1.9 million people age 65 and older died in 2013. As people age they are more vulnerable and susceptible to illness which family member and love one will witness and experience anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief can create the opportunity for an individual to psychological adjust and prepare for the death of a love one, however it can be a struggle for others if their love ones chronic or prolong illness is “off time”, meaning death of a young person. Bobbi Kristina Brown was 22 years old when she died from complications secondary to sustaining an anoxic brain injury from being in the bathtub face down. The family has experienced her prolong condition deteriorate for the past six months. Just because an anticipatory death is on the horizon doesn’t mean that it is any less ‘easier’ than a sudden because a lost is simply a lost.


CDC/National Center for Health Statistics. (2015, February 6). Death and Mortality. Retrieved from

Frances, L.R. (2015, July 28). Bobbi kristina dies at 22. Retrieved from

Carr, D. (2012). Death and dying in the contemporary united states: What are the psychological implication of anticipated death? Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 184-195. 0.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00416.x

Oldenburg, A & Puente, M. (2015, July 27). Bobbi krisitna has died. Retrieved from

About the Author

Henry M. Pittman Henry M. Pittman, MA

Henry M. Pittman came into the field of counseling through substance use disorders in the fall of 1997. He was a substance abuse tech at a hospital in Houston, TX and what he saw motivated him to take all the counseling hours needed to become a substance abuse counselor in 1998. Since then he has pursed the required education and knowledge to become a master level counselor and therapist.

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Phone: 800-419-2568
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