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12 Types of Grief

Introduction

In this short article I briefly explain 12 types of grief. If you want to know more about a specific type of grief, let me know in the comments and I will write a full-length article with relevant resources.


  1. Normal Grief- A natural response to a loss that is a unique experience to all. The person accepts they are grieving and works towards integrating that loss into their life. They might experience initial denial/shock, followed by moments of anger, depression, and bargaining. They might feel guilty and frightened. Normal grief likely lasts 1 to 3 years.

  2. Collective Grief- Experienced by multiple people. For example, Covid 19 or mass shooting. Many people have experienced the same type of loss but may grieve in different ways. It might be easier for grievers to feel supported and understood since the reason for the loss is shared.

  3. Anticipatory Grief- A loss that hasn’t occurred yet but will. For example, a cancer diagnosis, Alzheimer’s diagnosis, impeding divorce. In this scenario people are given time to prepare for the loss that will occur. Like all forms of grief, a person’s response is unique and can change with time and experiences.

  4. Disenfranchised Grief- The grief is unacceptable to others perhaps due to cultural reasons or stigma. It might be difficult for people to speak about this type of grief and find support. For example, the death of an ex-spouse, infertility, miscarriage, death of friend by drug or alcohol overdose.

  5. Cumulative Grief- A person experiences multiple losses all at once. It is difficult to fully address each loss. An example is someone who lost their home, sibling, and pet during a hurricane. They were forced to move and leave their friends, job, and community. They are also dealing with loss of purpose and loss of belonging.

  6. Distorted Grief- Someone experiencing this type of grief feels intense anger at self-and/or others. While anger is a normal response to grief, people experiencing distorted grief become stuck in their anger. They become hostile, lash out, and might self-harm. The anger they feel after experience a loss is incredibly strong and long-lasting that it seeps into other areas of their life affecting how they see the world, interact with others, and treat themselves.

  7. Traumatic Grief- This is one form of complicated grief. Someone who experienced a violent, sudden, and/or unexpected might experience traumatic grief. Someone may experience this type of grief if he or she has PTSD symptoms pertaining to the loss of someone they know and care deeply about. They experience symptoms of preoccupation, loneliness, and longing for the deceased to return. They are extremely distressed and hypervigilant. They have a hard time accepting the reality of the loss, may isolate themselves from others, feel anger and distrustful of others and the world.

  8. Prolonged Grief- This is the most common form of complicated grief. Someone may experience this type of grief if the loss was sudden and traumatic. Emotions are intense and the person may feel persistent longing for their deceased loved one. They have difficulty functioning throughout the day. Although such feelings and challenges occur for many grievers, symptoms do not lessen or improve with time for someone who has prolonged grief.

  9. Delayed grief- Mind has blocked out the loss only to show up later. A person does not process the shock of the loss until later. After a loss, survivors might have responsibilities they need to uphold such as funeral planning, managing finances, and taking care of the kids. Only after these responsibilities/tasks are taken care of can the person go through the grieving process.

  10. Secondary Grief- Subsequent losses occur after the original loss. For example, a child’s parents die, and he must move in with his aunt and uncle who live in a different state. The child must go to a different school and make new friends. Or a housewife’s husband passes away and leaves her with the financial burden of paying the mortgage, utilities, and maintenance of the home.

  11. Abbreviated Grief- An example of this is when a widower remarries within a couple months. They are quickly able to accept the loss.

  12. Absent Grief- This is when normal grief reactions and emotions are absent. In some cases, this form of grief may occur to do denial of the loss and avoidance of dealing with associated emotions. In others, this is simply because the person was not that close to the person who is now deceased.

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