What Are The Lesser-Known Types of Grief?

Although grief is a universal experience, there isn’t a universal way for how we understand, identify, and cope with it. Although it refers to loss, it doesn’t always refer to death, and the loss itself can be ambiguous, complicated, and even anticipatory. There are different types of grief.

Understanding grief is vital for both your self-awareness and personal healing. If you’re struggling with loss, your feelings might feel confusing or overwhelming to you. That said, these feelings are valid, and it’s important that you honor them. 

Let’s get into some of the various types of grief you should know. 

Complicated Grief 

It’s normal to feel lost and untethered after someone dies. Many people spend several days or weeks feeling sad, angry, guilty, or scared. While these feelings don’t just disappear, they do tend to become more manageable over time. 

Complicated grief includes grief that feels so intense and debilitating that it’s challenging to function in daily life. The individual struggling with this grief often feels trapped- they see no way out. They don’t know how to go on in life, and they may feel extremely depressed, anxious, or suicidal as a result.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief can occur when someone feels oppressed, discriminated against, or otherwise invalidated for their loss. 

For example, this can happen during deaths that may be stigmatized, such as a drug overdose, suicide, or death caused by a preventable disease. It can also occur when people deem the relationship as unimportant, such as extramarital partners, ex-spouses, pets, or estranged family members. 

This grief can feel incredibly painful and lonely. On top of missing the person you lost, you may have to deal with internalized guilt and shame. You might also have to face insensitive comments or questions from people who don’t understand your experience. 

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief can happen when someone faces a serious medical condition or life-threatening illness. In this case, loved ones begin anticipating death, and the emotions of sadness, fear, or loneliness may start emerging before the loss itself.

Anticipatory grief, of course, can be complex. It’s challenging to see someone you love suffer, and it’s also hard to balance your own emotional needs if you have assumed a caretaking role. In some cases, anticipatory grief can decrease the strong impact of loss after the individual dies, but that isn’t always the case. 

Collective Grief

Collective grief refers to shared, communal suffering experienced by many members of a community or society. This type of grief tends to be more large-scale- it can happen due to natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks, or the death of a public figure. 

The current COVID-19 pandemic represents another example of collective grief, as many people around the world are experiencing similar feelings of sadness, fear, anger, and restlessness. 

In some cases, outsiders to this collective experience may not fully understand the grief some people feel. They may be quick to use platitudes like, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, or, you are so lucky you survived, instead of validating the difficulty associated with the loss. 

Inhibited Grief 

Inhibited grief can happen when someone focuses their attention on other responsibilities rather than their feelings. For instance, they may channel themselves into being a strong, stable person for the rest of their family. Or, they might occupy themselves with work to stay distracted.

Inhibited grief isn’t the same as denial, which is a common experience many people face after a loss. Instead, inhibited grief tends to be an avoidance strategy. Instead of honoring the feelings associated with loss, the individual may throw themselves into other distractions.

Many times, these individuals also struggle to express their emotions. They may feel a sense of numbness or apathy, which they mistake as having no feelings at all. 

Delayed Grief

Delayed grief may emerge from inhibited grief, but it can also happen when someone unconsciously attempts to postpone their feelings.

For instance, a child may grieve the death of her father twenty years after he dies. In those twenty years, she believes she has accepted and moved on from the loss. But a single experience may trigger intense feelings of grief.

Delayed grief, at times, can feel isolating. The individual may feel confused about why they are suddenly feeling this influx of emotions. They might also be embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it with others, especially if they believed everyone else has seamlessly moved on. 

How Therapy Can Help With These Different Types of Grief

Grief therapy offers a safe and compassionate space for you to process the emotions related to your loss. In this therapy, there are no right or wrong answers. Instead, this experience is about growth, self-awareness, healthy coping, and healing.
We help people struggling with all different types of grief. No matter the circumstances surrounding your loss, we are here for you. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

Willow Counseling, LLC – Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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