Are There Different Types of Grief?

Grief can take many forms, and understanding the type of grief you are experiencing can help you find the best way to cope with your loss. Learn about anticipatory grief, sudden death loss, and complicated grief, as well as how to recognize when it's time to seek help.

Are There Different Types of Grief?
Photo by Danie Franco / Unsplash

There are different types of grief and it does affect your recovery from your loss.

Let me explain.

If you are a family caregiver that is dealing with the loss of a family member with dementia, or  serious chronic medical condition…. you may be experiencing what is known as anticipatory grief.

Anticipatory grief is not unusual. If you are caring for a family member with a chronic medical condition… you may start experiencing a sense of loss before they actually pass.

You can have anticipatory grief and still experience sudden death loss.

Individuals who experience a sudden death … often have feelings of anger. Many have difficulty accepting the finality and reality of their loss.

A person that is experiencing anticipatory loss … may take the opportunity, in their own way, to ask or offer forgiveness, say “I love You”, “thank you”, and even “goodbye”.

For some, it is a way to bring a relationship full circle. And can make accepting the passing of their loved one easier.

While you may experience anticipatory grief… you may not be ready to come to terms with the reality and finality of your family members death.

As a nurse and having had so many experiences with death, dying and hospice… I now understand, there are times when family members feel that if they accept their family member is dying… they are giving up.

Over the years..  I have come to realize that anticipatory grief can be an opportunity to create a closer bond with their loved one … and bring the relationship to completeness.

The final type of grief, is  known as complicated grief.  It is the final type of loss.

A pebble painted with the words, For all those we have loved and lost.
Types of Grief

There are different types of complicated or profound grief:

Disenfranchised grief is a grief that cannot be acknowledged. This may include situations when a relationship cannot or is not acknowledged. This may be a miscarriage, a loss of a gay partner.

Many marginalize the importance a pet has in our life.  The loss of a pet that we loved and cared for, is devastating. For many, their pet is like a family member. Pets give us joy and unconditional love. They are very much a part of our everyday life, so, when they cross over the rainbow bridge, we miss them.

Another example of disenfranchised grief… would be when the death has negative connotations, Such as suicide or a person dying from aids or ebola.

Ambiguous loss is under the disenfranchised grief category. This is a type of grief that is getting more and more attention. This is a loss when the person is physically present… but not present psychologically.

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Examples are those caring for someone with … dementia, or traumatic brain injury or chronic illnesses.

This includes those dealing with someone suffering from alcoholism.  Or even a parent or partner that is a workaholic.

Complicated grief is when the grieving process does not progress over time, as it should. The intensity of feelings and length of time is severe and prolonged. It interferes with your ability to function. You may even fall into a true depression or anxiety disorder.

Most people know when they are stuck in a grief that will not resolve. Complicated grief usually will not resolve on it’s own. And requires the help of a professional to resolve it.

I have learned over time, that the feelings of loss and grief are universal.

No matter what, we all feel as if no one understands our pain and suffering.

The truth of the matter is, grief is grief. When we have loved and lost, we feel pain.

We have lost something irreplaceable in our lives.

Have a story about your caregiving journey? Would you like to share here? Help others realize that they are not alone. Submit Your Caregiver Story

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