Different Types of Grief Explained


sad man looking depressed

What comes to mind when you think of grief? Most people relate the word to loss, like the death of a loved one or the loss of a beloved pet. While that is one form of grief, there are several other varieties that people face in their lifetimes.

Most people also have a specific expectation of grief from how it affects someone to how people handle it. The truth is, however, that both aspects are entirely different for every individual person. Having a better understanding of grief can help prepare you for facing it as well as to support others experiencing it. Here are the different types of grief explained.

Anticipatory Grief

Many people are unaware of anticipatory grief, even though they’re likely to experience it at some point in their life. This happens when someone feels the emotion prior to a loss. A common example is when a loved one has a terminal disease. You know the death is coming, causing grief to creep in before the person is gone.

Handling this form of grief is difficult. Many feel that experiencing this emotion means giving up hope, while others may feel guilty over the relief they get when the event happens. For others, their grief may become worse once the death happens. Being supportive and understanding is the best way to help someone experiencing anticipatory grief.

Common Grief

Also called normal grief, this form is how most people define the emotion. It can be tough to be supportive as people tend to hide this from of grief from others, carrying on with their lives normally despite the pain and numbness that comes with it. These intense feelings do gradually fade over time, though.

Complicated Grief

In some cases, those intense feelings do not fade. They become overwhelming, impacting aspects of daily life. Irrational thoughts, avoidance behavior, anxiety, and depression can all manifest. The feelings are constant and intense, leading to the need for intervention like therapy or counseling.

Delayed Grief

When grief doesn’t coincide directly with an event, revealing itself later, it’s known as delayed grief. Sudden events or ones that happen at the same time, like losing a house at the same time as losing a loved one, are the most likely scenarios.

Consider accidents caused by drunk drivers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The sudden, unexpected loss of a loved one comes as a shock. Grief might not set in immediately until that initial shock wears off. Once the emotion does impact the individual, it acts as common grief.

Inhibited Grief

This type happens when someone avoids feeling grief altogether. They don’t want to face the reality of loss, so they turn their attention and energy to other things as a distraction. This leads to exhaustion and physical symptoms ranging from nausea to digestive issues and migraines.

Disenfranchised Grief

When a persons’ support group or society fails to recognize their grief, it’s known as disenfranchised. Family or friends might not be supportive of the grief someone feels after losing a pet, for instance. People often attempt to suppress their emotions or become depressed, feeling as though no one understands them, when this happens.

Absent Grief

Like the disenfranchised type, absent grief sees the individual suppress their feelings. The absent variety is more extreme, however, and doesn’t require a lack of understanding from others. Avoidance and denial are key indicators, and absent grief often requires counseling to heal.

Exaggerated Grief

Finally, there’s exaggerated grief. In this form, an individual experiences multiple losses at once or over a short time. This makes it incredibly difficult for them to cope, often leading to deep depression as the sorrow is too much to bear.