What are the types of grief?

types of grief

Grief is a natural but painful response to losing someone or something important in our lives.

Everybody experiences grief differently, and every subsequent time we experience grief is likely to be very different to our previous experience of grief.

Grief is unpredictable and there is no right or wrong way to mourn. When we grieve we often experience both mental and physical symptoms. Symptoms of grief can encompass everything from sadness and anxiety to confusion and anger, headaches and fatigue to stomach and chest pains.

A lot of people do not realise that there are many different types of grief. Knowing which type of grief a person is going through can help them and those around them to understand the symptoms they are experiencing better and identify the best type of support for them.

In this article, we will explain a little more about what the different types of grief are, the signs and symptoms of each, and the factors that can affect the type of grief a person experiences.

What are the different types of grief?

Understanding the key differences between the different types of grief can help with identifying the type of grief someone is experiencing and gaining some insight into what they are going through and how to best support them.

Below, we’ve put together a brief guide to the ten most common types of grief, what they are, and when they are most likely to be experienced.

Normal grief

Whilst everyone grieves differently and experiences very different symptoms of grief, normal grief can generally be defined as grief that lasts between six months and two years and involves the grieving person’s symptoms lessening with time as they gradually accept their loss. During the grieving process, people going through normal grief may experience a wide range of different physical and emotional symptoms that vary in severity and may come and go.

Anticipatory grief

Anticipatory grief occurs when someone can see a loss coming and starts to grieve the loss before it happens. Examples of when anticipatory grief may be felt include during the divorce process and when a loved one is terminally ill.

Symptoms of anticipatory grief may include:

  • Feelings of dread, sadness, anxiety, and guilt.
  • Lethargy.
  • Withdrawal.
  • Feeling angry, irritable, and confused.

Absent grief

Absent grief is more common when the loss happens very suddenly or unexpectedly. People experiencing absent grief may not have any typical symptoms of grief but may be in denial or shock about the loss.

Inhibited grief

Inhibited grief can occur when a person avoids acknowledging or dealing with their emotions after a loss. Someone going through inhibited grief may find that whilst they are repressing their emotions they start to experience physical symptoms of grief like fatigue or stomach pains.

Signs that someone is going through inhibited grief include:

  • Not showing any emotional response to their loss.
  • Keeping very busy.
  • Physical symptoms of grief.

Delayed grief

Delayed grief can occur days, weeks, months, and even years after a loss. People who experience delayed grief often go through a period where they are in crisis mode or a state of dissociation immediately after the loss. During this time, they may carry on daily activities on autopilot until their grief eventually surfaces.

Disenfranchised grief

Disenfranchised grief is a type of grief that may occur when a person experiences a loss that they do not feel that society fully acknowledges because the loss is either stigmatised, deemed as less significant, or not widely discussed. The types of loss that can sometimes result in disenfranchised grief include the death of a pet, ex-partner, miscarriage, or partner from an affair. People experiencing disenfranchised grief may feel particularly isolated, confused, or hopeless.

Cumulative grief

Cumulative grief may be experienced by a person who experiences multiple losses in a short space of time. Cumulative grief can be difficult to deal with and may result in the person feeling overwhelmed, numb, and struggling to process one or more of the losses.

Distorted (or exaggerated) grief

Distorted grief is characterised by behavioural changes and very extreme reactions to loss. Signs and symptoms of distorted grief include:

  • Behavioural changes.
  • Anger or hostility.
  • Self-destructive behaviour.
  • Nightmares.
  • Violent behaviour.

Prolonged (or complicated) grief

Chronic grief which lasts for many years without subsiding in intensity is referred to as complicated grief or prolonged grief. This type of grief can be very difficult to overcome and causes overwhelming emotional distress the majority of the time, impairing a person’s ability to carry out normal daily activities. This type of grief is more common amongst those who have lost someone very suddenly, unexpectedly, or under traumatic circumstances.

Traumatic grief

Traumatic grief usually occurs when a person loses someone through a traumatic event or circumstances. Traumatic deaths are usually unexpected or violent in nature and could include suicide, assault, or an accident. The death of a child can also be traumatic. The shock of a traumatic bereavement can be more intense and pervasive than normal grief.

Symptoms of traumatic grief may include:

  • Fear and anxiety.
  • Nightmares and difficulty sleeping.
  • Flashbacks.
  • Feeling numb.

Educate yourself with a masterclass in separation, loss, and grief

If you or someone you know is going through grief, then you could benefit from signing up to take part in the educational course on separation, loss, and grief that we run here at Care Business Associates.

Key topics that the course covers include how to support loved ones through grief, the types of grief, the stages of grief, the factors that affect how people experience grief, and useful strategies and skills that can be used to support someone who is grieving.

For more information, or to book your place on our next separation, loss, and grief masterclass, give our team a call on 01772 816 922.