If you were surprised when you found out that grief, in fact, has many forms, don’t worry, countless others have made the same mistake. Here is a quick and easy guide to the many types of grief.
First things first—normal grief isn’t about the average length of the grieving phase or the average intensity of emotions; each person deals with grief differently. The loss of a loved one may be a minor ordeal to some and a tragedy to others; it all depends on each individual’s perception of the deceased. So what, then, constitutes normal grief? Normal grief is marked by gradual acceptance of the loss, healing, moving forward, and regaining the ability to engage in daily activities.
When you learn that a loved one is dying from a terminal illness, you begin to grieve even when they’re still alive. When you’re about to graduate or move to another city and feel sad before moving away, that is anticipated grief.
Anticipated grief is, as the name suggests, the reaction to a loss you were able to anticipate. This type of grief can be confusing as you might feel guilty for grieving over someone who’s still alive. Depending on your outlook on life, the foreknowledge of a loved one’s imminent death can either be a blessing or a curse; some people choose to distance themselves to avoid experiencing more pain while others decide to make the most of the time they have to make meaningful memories with their loved ones and prepare for closure.
This type of grief is real, but short lived. It happens when there is no perceived time to grieve or if there is no strong attachment to the loss, or if seen as a gain.
For example, you might feel sad for a while at the thought of graduating high school and leaving your hometown, friends, and family behind, but at the same time you are also thrilled at the idea of moving to a big city, meeting new people and being independent. Another example is when you are informed of the death of a relative you never met.
Sometimes grief in this setting is occurs because the transition happened too soon and there was little to no time to process. Guilt may sometimes creep in because you might feel like you ought to be feeling something, but instead feel nothing.
This type of grief is characterized by a lack of clarity over a loss. Ambiguous grief is most commonly found among children. Because children lack a deeper understanding of complicated matters such as death, they are unable to recognize what they are feeling and so they resort to shutting down emotionally or throwing tantrums. The child may make powerful, crippling choices such as never partaking in certain activities ever again because it reminded them of a painful memory. In these vulnerable times adults should take extra care in guiding their children.
At first glance, delayed grief seems to be the most convenient and logical. You might think you currently don’t have time to mourn the loss of a loved one because you have an important meeting with your boss on the following day so you suppress your emotions. The problem with delaying grief is that the suppressed emotions might build up and explode at inappropriate times.
This type of grief commonly takes place during a successive string of losses. It can also happen when you’ve had a lifetime of unprocessed grief that may blow up with the addition of another loss. For example you may have lost your job, your dog died, and on top of that your parents died, depression may set in and you might find yourself angry or crying all the time, you may find it difficult to get simple tasks done and you can’t seem to focus.
When grief is left unprocessed, or worse, suppressed, they may surface in other ways such as headaches, stomachaches, and unexplained illnesses. It is never a good idea to bottle up emotions.
This type of grief occurs when there is a history of unprocessed loss. It is prevalent among individuals who frequently moved as children and later on felt the cumulative effects of constant changes as adults. A person may feel rootless and have difficulty forming lasting relationships as a result.
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