Previously I shared a post on Styles of Grief but here I want to share a post on Types of Grief. I’m taking my lead from several sources that have referenced multiple types of grief. So I am going to yield to their wisdom, and am going to use the terms used by Liz Kelly, a licensed social worker in Washington D.C. who specializes in grief.
Here, I just want to share the same 16 types of grief identified by Kelly but put the definitions of each in my own words so it can remain here as a source of application for spiritual care support.
- Normal Grief — While grief itself is a normal response to loss, this is the simple feeling of grief. It may be a range of reactions that could be emotional or physical or behavior or social. (Emotional reactions would include anger, shock, denial, numbness, loneliness, relief, apathy, irritability. Physical reactions would include tightness in chest, feeling weak, lack of energy, nausea, heart palpitations, restlessness, tearfulness. Behavior reactions would include forgetfulness, confusion, dreaming of the deceased, absent-mindedness. Social reactions would include being dependent on others, withdrawing from friends, substance abuse, neglecting self-care.
- Anticipatory Grief — This is common when a loved-one is dealing with a terminal illness like cancer. Family can anticipate life without them and begin preparing for the impending loss. The positive side of this type of grief is that family is typically able to say goodbye and have the conversations that a sudden loss normally forbids.
- Complicated Grief — The complication here is often other issues interrupting or forbidding grief to naturally process out over time. The grieving family member may be stuck in a feeling of anger toward the deceased or maybe a mental illness on part of the griever.
- Chronic Grief — This is a very long drawn out grief. It is typically a constant drip of distress over the loss that doesn’t have a way out through normal conversations with others and instead of decreasing sorrow over time it only intensifies.
- Delayed Grief — This is common if a griever’s mind blocks out the sorrow or for whatever reason refocus away from loss until months or years later. Grief can surface long after the loss when emotions and feelings are ready to be dealt with.
- Distorted Grief — This is a distortion to the grieving that is very intense, over the top, and generally self-destructive behavior. It can include lashing out at someone, becoming violently angry, and harmful to oneself.
- Cumulative Grief — This when a loss impacts a current ongoing grieving process like two family deaths unrelated but close together in time. We sometimes call this compounding grief because the sorrow will layer itself and cause the griever to feel overwhelmed and unable to bear the burden.
- Exaggerated Grief — This is when the intensity of the grief is more noticeable to your friends and disruptive to your normal activities of day by day life. Coping with this type of grieving can leave one to act out in self-destructive behavior, have nightmares, and even lead to the development of psychiatric disorders.
- Secondary Grief — This is the experience of another type of loss while dealing with an unrelated loss. An example would be experiencing the death of a family member and then while grieving through that you find yourself facing a divorce.
- Masked Grief — This is when an illness or health issue is really a physical symptoms or behaviors caused by the grieving of a loss.
- Disenfranchised Grief — This occurs when a griever doesn’t feel like their grief is validated or heard so it becomes a silent grieving. This happens when a griever feels they can’t mention the grief because of the stigma surrounding the death, like a suicide, a former spouse, or even a same sex partner.
- Traumatic Grief — This is when a traumatic event complicates the otherwise normal grief because the death was so unexpected or was horrifically violent or a slow onslaught because of brain injury or it caused other unplanned concerns like legal repercussions.
- Collective Grief — This is collective in the sense of a community grief or a grief that a group may go through. An example may be a mass casualty event, a natural disaster that caused multiple deaths, or a national tragedy observed by its citizens.
- Inhibited Grief — This is when a griever is withholding the process of grieving and is not showing any obvious or outward expressions of grief. This is typically a long-term issue and not just a get through the funeral before allowing myself to fall apart. This leads to physical problems from pushing the sorrow down without allowing it to surface and have relief.
- Abbreviated Grief — This is grief that is given a short period of time because the survivor replaces the loss or does not recognize their connection to the deceased as being very strong or valued.
- Absent Grief — This is an extended issue when a family member doesn’t show signs of grief and acts as if the death didn’t occur or didn’t affect them. While absent grief can be dealt with by a griever it generally needs to be addressed by a friend in way that gives them permission to grieve.
I wanted to share these 16 types of grief, not because I think knowing each one will help in spiritual care in a hospital setting, but because it’s helpful that we remain aware that grief is as unique as we all are.
In my next post I want to address the stages of grief.
In the meantime, let’s not forget the Lord is not unaware of those that grieve because He has promised in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.”