Several factors influence how people cope with loss and death, such as their personality, relationship to the deceased, cultural or religious beliefs, mental health history, and support system. These factors play a significant role in determining an individual's grieving process. Recognizing the diverse ways people experience grief can enhance our understanding and empathy toward their unique journeys. Let’s explore the different types of grief individuals may experience:
The most common type of grief is characterized by symptoms such as shock, disbelief, and denial immediately after a death. These intense emotions and longing for their loved one may vary in their order of occurrence. Most individuals with this type of grief can continue with their daily activities. As time passes, although the pain never entirely fades, the emotions tend to diminish in intensity, allowing life to move forward. Typically, within 6 months, these feelings become more manageable and often find some resolution within 1-2 years. It is estimated that about 50%-85% of people experience this normal/common grieving process.
Anticipatory grief is the grief experienced before a death or loss occurs, often when someone we care about is suffering. It can arise in situations like a loved one being diagnosed with a terminal illness. This form of grief, although challenging and not following the usual grieving narrative, is important to acknowledge as a real type of grief.
Complicated grief encompasses different types of grief that deviate from the typical grieving process. Factors such as sudden or traumatic losses can trigger complicated grief, characterized by heightened intensity and prolonged duration. Previously known as abnormal or pathological grief, complicated grief consists of three subtypes: chronic grief, delayed grief, and absent grief.
After a loss, most individuals start feeling better emotionally within 6 months and usually return to a sense of normalcy within a year. If grief continues beyond this period, it may be classified as chronic grief. Those grappling with chronic grief may also show signs of clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, or PTSD. These symptoms may require seeing a psychiatrist or other medica professional for diagnosis and treatment in order to improve.
Delayed grief occurs when the mourning process is significantly postponed or delayed. Rather than experiencing the full impact of the loss immediately, individuals with delayed grief may suppress their emotions or only confront their grief after a substantial amount of time has passed. This delay can result from a variety of factors, including the need to prioritize immediate responsibilities or a subconscious coping mechanism. It is crucial to validate these emotions and seek support from loved ones and mental health professionals during the grief journey. It is never “too late” to experience grief.
Absent grief is characterized by an apparent lack of emotional response or expression following a significant loss. Individuals with absent grief may not outwardly display the expected signs of mourning, making it challenging for others to recognize their internal struggles. This type of grief might be associated with emotional numbness or an inability to connect with and process the emotions related to the loss.
Distorted grief, a type characterized by atypical symptoms, often presents more intense or unusual manifestations that can be perplexing to observers. Individuals experiencing distorted grief may encounter emotions such as anger and depression even in the absence of a clear sense of loss or sadness. Additionally, they may wrestle with denying the reality of their loved one's death, harboring an unattainable longing for their return, and displaying symptoms like unrealistic expectations, relationship-damaging behavior, and a feeling of disconnection from the world.
Grief is typically seen as a personal ordeal. However, in situations where many individuals share a loss due to widely recognized events, such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks, collective grief can arise. It is characterized by a range of symptoms, including shock, confusion, disbelief, difficulty focusing, prolonged sadness, exhaustion, and altered behavior like avoiding social interactions or engaging in risky actions.
Disenfranchised grief, also known as "hidden grief," refers to a type of mourning that is not considered acceptable to express within society. This can include grief experienced after a pregnancy loss, the death of a healthcare professional's patient, or even the loss of a pet. When individuals feel unable to openly grieve, it may lead to unhealthy grieving patterns and a lack of support. It is vital to acknowledge that all forms of loss are valid and to seek assistance when needed.
No matter what type of grief you’re facing, it's important to know that you're not alone. If your experience with grief differs from what you expected, there is nothing wrong with you. Everyone's grief journey is unique and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Normalizing grief in all its forms is essential, and seeking support from mental health professionals or organizations specializing in your type of grief can be beneficial.
To assist you, we've curated a collection of local resources available on our website: https://www.symondsmadison.com/grief-support