Types of Bereavement: Ways We Deal With Loss
What is Grief?
Grief is the natural reaction to our emotional processing of great personal loss. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. You may experience all kinds of unexpected and difficult emotions, from anger or shock to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal reactions to loss—and the more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be. With experiences varying from person to person it is understandable that every mourning process is different.
It’s often said that the stages of grief go from denial to acceptance, but some claim this only applies to the types of grief linked to the death of a loved one. The truth is that grief can be messy, turbulent and unpredictable and it doesn’t necessarily follow a clear path. According to psychological studies, in some cases it may even come and go in cycles and be anything but an orderly clear cut process.
The way we experience grief is unique to each one of us and can depend on factors like beliefs, background, personality, age, support network, and health – both mental and physical. All these factors contribute to the uniqueness of each grief experience, and can derive into any of the main types of grief described below. Let’s get a little better understanding about how people grieve, how to identify what type of grief you are experiencing, and healthy ways to help.
The Eight Different Types of Grief
A lesser known type of mourning, Anticipatory grief leans into its namesake by developing prior to any loss occurring. While relatively common, it is a slow burning, complex manifestation of emotions that can show up under a variety of different circumstances as our body prepares to deal with an inevitable end. It may develop from the knowledge of someone who has suffered long-term passing, or creep in alongside the sense of the unknown. It can be paralysing in it’s uncertainty and is often plagued with conflicting emotions such as relief, guilt, sadness and inexplicable loss.
Normal or Common Grief
Originating from a place of loss, this is the most common form of grief. While individual reactions may differ, most people will experience a range of emotions and a shift in their behaviour as a result of this change. For some it will be possible to carry on with their normal routine, while for others this will be impossible. The sharp sting of this type of mourning lessens over time, it’s edges becoming duller and easier to handle.
Complicated grief is deceptive in its nature, often masking itself as common grief that lingers. The weight of complicated grief gets heavier over time and settles as a well-worn blanket around your shoulders. It is such a debilitating kind of hurt that the pain experienced becomes unending and all sense of normality ceases to exist. Characterised by the tendency to avoid painful memories and irrational thoughts, complicated grief tethers itself to its wearer with invisible shackles, impervious to the offers of help from others.
Delayed grief is the one that is never on time for anything. It can show up months or years later, but still be as relevant as the moment it missed. For some, the feelings of loss don’t occur immediately. Delayed grief is there to make up for lost time by amplifying those emotions, regardless of present circumstances, and will oftentimes show up when more than one major life event has occurred simultaneously.
Choosing to manifest itself in physical problems rather than internalised ones, Inhibited grief appears when the griever avoids facing their loss. By distracting themselves and refusing to acknowledge their pain, the griever brings it to the surface in the form of physical ailments.
Often overlooked because of its perceived size, Disenfranchised grief comes from losing something that society deems unworthy of mourning. This may arise from the loss of a pet or as the result of an accident, an abortion or the death of a non-family member, with the griever often feeling as if they are alone in their mourning. Suppression of emotions in favour of outsider judgement is a common sentiment amongst people who experience this type of grief.
Characterised by complete shock or denial, Absent grief is a silencing of emotions and a refusal to acknowledge any form of loss. Often occurring as a result of previous experiences, Absent grief becomes concerning after an extended period of time without any other form of mourning.
Similar to complicated grief in depth of sorrow and the inability to function, Exaggerated grief is not the type to improve over time. Commonly occurring as the result of experiencing multiple losses over a short amount of time, it is easy to understand why this type of grief can quickly lend itself to depression. Evoking a range of thoughts that span from anger and self harm to suicide and other self-destructive behaviours, the griever will often feel lost and unable to cope as they usually might in the face of such loss.
Identifying Your Type of Grief
If you are suffering from any type of grief, maybe you’ve been able to identify yourself under one of these descriptions.
Ask yourself some simple questions:
- Am I making progress in my grief process?
- Do I feel any better from yesterday/last week/month?
- Am I making future plans?If you answer “no” to any of these questions, perhaps it is time for you to seek professional help. For most types of grief it is a good idea to speak with a mental health professional or to join a grief support group.
Coping with Grief
Coping with the loss of a loved one is the hardest event you will ever go through in your life. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. The most important thing is to work through your feelings and recover. Life will never be the same, you will always miss your loved one, and you will need to learn to live differently. Although difficult, it is possible to work through grief in a healthy, meaningful way. Grief is a universal emotion, but the way we experience it isn’t. When learning to live with grief, it’s essential to understand that there’s no standard formula and we need to find the best ways of processing it for our particular circumstances.
We all approach grief differently. We all grieve for different lengths of time. It is important to know where you are in this journey. If you are drowning and cannot reach the surface, it is time to seek professional help.