What You Should Know About the Unique Types of Grief

Every person who loses a loved one is going to experience a unique form of grief. The pain and loss you experience depends completely on your relationship to the deceased, the circumstances surrounding their death, your stage in life, and countless other factors. This is also why your personal approach to grief often changes depending on what loss you’re experiencing at a given time.

All that being said, no matter how or who you are grieving, there is a “typical” process that one travels through to adapt to their loss. Sometimes called the “Stages of Grief” the grief process includes denial, anger, anxiety, bargaining, and depression in the early stages, with acceptance, hope, and healing marking the readjustment to your new way of living. However, some losses warrant a more unique or complicated response. These complicated forms of grief may require more effort to work through, which is why it’s important to be able to properly identify them – whether for your own grief journey or to help others in your life. Keep reading to learn more.

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is very common among people who have chronically ill or terminally ill loved ones. This grief is unique, in that it begins before your loved one passes away. It is the expectation of the loss that can be very consuming and provoke early feelings of grief. If you’re struggling with anticipatory grief, you may hear phrases such as “enjoy the time you have left” or “take things one day at a time” from loved ones trying to comfort you, while in reality these phrases can be very hurtful. It’s important to know that experiencing grief before the loss is completely normal. It is not preemptive and does not mean you’re not grateful for the time you have left with your loved one. Anticipatory grief is just another element of the very complicated experience that comes with caring for and loving someone who is nearing their final days.

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief can manifest in a few different ways. However, the two most common forms of complicated grief are chronic and delayed. As their names imply, chronic grief is defined as intense grief that lasts for an extended period time – long beyond the scope of a typical grief experience. Delayed grief also entails a longer grief experience, as sufferers experience minor grief effects at first, only to have very intense and consuming grief later on. Both chronic and delayed grief are considered complicated because they’re characterized by a complete inability to carry on with your daily tasks and can prevent you from moving forward to the final stages of healing. If you are suffering from complicated grief, it’s often advised that you seek professional assistance in moving forward through your grief journey.

Cumulative & Secondary Grief

Cumulative grief occurs when you lose several loved ones within a short period of time. Similarly, secondary loss also involves working through multiple losses at once, though in the form of ideas attached to your loved one, such as financial security, celebrating anniversaries, etc. For more information on these forms of grief, please click here.

Disenfranchised & Distorted Grief

Disenfranchised grief can occur if your family, society, or your culture tell you that your grief is not valid or warranted. Distorted grief can be similar, as it can occur when you experience an extremely tragic or sudden loss that elicits a wide variety of intense emotions. Disenfranchised and/or distorted grief occur often among those who lose a loved one to suicide, overdose, or other sensitive situations. Feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and isolation are common among those suffering from these forms of grief. It is often helpful for those experiencing disenfranchised and distorted grief to seek professional assistance in progressing along their grief journey in a healthy way.  

Above all, remember that there is no right way to grieve, and there is no such thing as a “normal” grief journey. The types listed here are a few of the most common, but there are countless different reactions and feelings you may experience. Some people may experience multiple forms of grief, and yet some people may experience no grief at all (read more about Absent Grief here). Whatever you’re going through, just remember to be patient with yourself and know that we are here to help you however we can.

Learn more about the Catholic Cemeteries Association’s grief support resources (including support groups) here.

Post written by Katie Karpinski

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