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Types Of Grief

Knowing the different types of grief can be extremely helpful if you, or your loved one, has recently lost someone. This is because the more knowledge you have, the more you will be able to predict and manage general patterns of behaviour during the grief period. The following are the most common types of grief:

Normal Grief

Normal grief can be defined as the ability to move towards the acceptance of your loss. This is usually accompanied by a gradual decrease in the intensity of emotions. People experiencing normal grief are able to continue to function in their basic daily personal and professional activities.

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Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief, as the name suggests, is the grief reaction you have, to the anticipated death of your loved one who is suffering from a terminal illness. So, you’re able to “anticipate” their death. Here, the grieving begins before the death itself, usually soon after the diagnosis of the illness. The grief intensifies as the person’s health deteriorates. The predominant feelings are those of regret for not having done enough for, or with, the person, or those of loss, thinking about life after the person passes away. It is important in this type of grief, to seek closure while your loved one is still alive, to be able to cope better.

Complicated Grief

Normal grief that becomes complicated by other factors, is complicated grief. These factors can be substance use issues, mental health disorders, or physical illnesses. Complicated grief is more severe in nature, longer, and significantly impairs the person’s ability to function.

Chronic (Prolonged) Grief

Self explanatory, a relentless grief reaction that does not subside over a long period of time is chronic grief. Unlike normal grief, the grieving person makes no progress despite a significant passage of time since the loss their loved one. Prolonged grief occurs when the nature of death is unusual (sudden, violent or multiple deaths). Prolonged grief is also more likely when the grieving individual was almost completely dependent emotionally and financially, to the lost individual. The griever spends much time fantasising about reunion with their lost loved one, and is totally unable to cope with life without the individual. Chronic grief has the potential to develop into severe clinical depression, suicidal or self-harming thoughts, and even substance abuse if left untreated.

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Delayed Grief

Here, grief is delayed, that is, grief symptoms and reactions aren’t experienced until long after a person’s death than is usual and expected. This occurs when the griever consciously or subconsciously avoids the reality and pain of the loss. Suppression of grief in the initial period leads to rebound delayed grief.

Distorted Grief

Sometimes, grief manifests with extreme, intense, or atypical reactions to a loss. These odd changes in behaviour may occur due to extreme feelings of guilt or anger, resulting in hostility towards a particular person, or self-destructive behaviours. Distorted grief can occur in individuals who are unable to process the loss of their loved one, and are perplexed by their loss, leading to this confused, unpredictable state of mind.

Cumulative Grief

This occurs when one experiences a second loss while still grieving a first loss. This is also referred to as “bereavement overload” or “grief overload”. Cumulative grief can be particularly stressful, because you don’t have time to properly grieve one loss before experiencing the next. This is common in cases of environmental crises, wars and acts of terrorism.

Exaggerated Grief

Normal grief responses that intensify and worsen as time moves on become exaggerated grief. This may result in self-destructive behaviour such as excessive substance use and suicidal thoughts, and even the emergence of psychiatric disorders that were never present earlier.

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Disenfranchised Grief

This is a grief that someone experiences after a loss, but society, at large, does not acknowledge the importance of the loss in the person’s life. Moreover, the person may be made to feel that their loss and/or grief is invalidated and insignificant. This can occur when the death is perceived to be the victim’s fault (suicide, overdose, HIV/AIDS, drunk driving), the relationship is seen as insignificant or inappropriate (ex-spouse, co-worker, miscarriage, pet), or if the relationship is considered taboo and thus stigmatised by society (same-sex partner, gang member, partner from an extramarital affair).

Collective Grief

This is a kind of grief that is felt by a collective group of people, from a small collective such as a community, society, or village, to a large collective such as a nation or a continent. Collective grief follows mass deaths as a result of an event such as a war, natural disaster, terrorist attack, or death of a public figure. A very classical example of collective grief would be what nations are suffering from after the coronavirus pandemic.

Abbreviated Grief

Abbreviated grief is a short-lived grief response. This short time span can occur when the role of the deceased person is immediately filled by someone/something else, when there was little to no attachment to the deceased, or when the individual is able to accept the loss in cases of anticipatory grief.

Absent Grief

Sometimes, a bereaved person will show absolutely no signs of grief. He/she acts as though nothing has happened. This happens due to complete shock or denial, especially in the face of a sudden loss. Absent grief is an issue if it goes on for an extended period of time. It is, however, important to note that in some cases, just because you can’t see the signs of grief, it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is not grieving.

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