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7 Types of Grief: Understanding the Grieving Process

No two people grieve the same way. Still, there are common experiences among people that help us identify different types of grief. We'll explain 7 common types of grief, including anticipatory, silent, and prolonged grief, and ways to navigate the grieving process so you can cope and heal.

1. Anticipatory Grief

Most people think of grief as an emotion that happens after death, but grief is complicated and occurs beforehand in an experience known as anticipatory grief.

Anticipatory grief impacts people who are dying or ill and their loved ones. It's common among those battling end-stage cancer, Alzheimer's, dementia and other terminal conditions. If you are coping with anticipatory grief, The Love Always Project offers planning resources to help ease your pain, prepare for death, and find peace.

Learn more about anticipatory grief and how to manage the complex emotions that accompany it.

2. Cumulative Grief

What is cumulative grief? Cumulative grief occurs when you do not have time to process one loss before coping with another. It occurs when deaths happen within a short period of time or all at once, which intensifies complex emotions—making grief more difficult to process. Age can increase your risk for cumulative grief as older individuals tend to experience the death of loved ones at higher rates.

Coping with cumulative grief can feel challenging and emotionally draining, but healing is possible. It just takes time. Be patient and allow yourself the time you need to process the pain and sorrow of each life lost. Learn more about ways to cope with the stages of grief.

3. Silent Grief

Silent grief occurs when people cannot fully express their emotions surrounding a loss and stems from a belief that no one will understand their pain or suffering. As a result, those coping with silent grief tend to isolate themselves, putting them at increased risk for depression and intense loneliness.

The most common causes of silent grief are when a loss is stigmatized or judged by others or if the death isn't considered significant to others. Read more about silent grief and learn how to identify and cope with the condition.

Disenfranchised, Hidden, and Invisible Grief

Grief is a personal experience, and in an attempt to identify emotions, people may refer to the same type of grief by different names. Disenfranchised, hidden, and invisible grief are similar to silent grief, and the terms may be used interchangeably.

4. Collective Grief

As the name implies, collective grief occurs when a community or group of people experience death or multiple deaths. Common causes of collective grief include natural disasters, gun violence, war, and other events that result in high-profile deaths.

Collective grief occurs regardless of having a personal relationship with the deceased. Just hearing about a death in the news can trigger intense sorrow and anguish. It may seem unusual to grieve the loss of someone you don't know closely, but collective grief is a common condition. You should give yourself permission to feel your emotions and mourn the loss.

If you're struggling with collective grief, attending or coordinating a vigil or memorial service can help you and your community honor those who have died, find support, and heal together. You can plan a meaningful virtual memorial service using our helpful guide.

5. Delayed Grief

Delayed grief occurs when your emotional reaction to loss is put off for months, years, or even decades. It's common for many and often occurs when the death of a loved one causes the bereaved to take on new responsibilities, like caring for children, managing expenses, and other tasks the deceased once took care of.

The stress and busyness of adjusting to a new reality with new obligations can stop us from fully processing the death and the grief associated with it. Joining a bereavement support group can help those struggling with delayed grief get the help they need to heal.

6. Prolonged Grief Disorder

Grief is a natural response to loss; while we all experience it differently, it usually becomes easier to cope with over time. Those with prolonged grief disorder have an extended period of grieving, lasting six to 12 months or longer, with symptoms so severe it becomes difficult for them to return to their daily lives.

People struggling with prolonged grief may feel like a part of them has died, making it difficult to return to work, school, hobbies, and other interests. Symptoms of prolonged grief vary from person to person, and it may display differently for you or a loved one. Our guide to understanding prolonged grief disorder offers tools and resources to help you identify the condition and cope.

Complicated, Traumatic, Persistent, and Chronic Grief

Prolonged grief disorder was recognized and added to The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in March 2022. Before that, prolonged grief disorder was referred to by many names, including complicated, traumatic, persistent, and chronic grief.

This recognition in the DSM provides a shared understanding of the condition and empowers mental health professionals, patients and families to identify signs of a longer-term prolonged grief diagnosis.

7. Absent Grief

An individual can experience absent grief, and at other times it may be labeled on us by those who feel we are not grieving "appropriately." With absent grief, there are little to no signs of typical grief, like pain, sadness, sorrow, or crying.

Absent grief can stem from denying the loss or avoiding our feelings about a death. It usually occurs when individuals are stuck in the denial stage of grief. You can begin to cope with absent grief by taking time to accept the reality of the loss, process your pain, and adjust to your new reality. Understanding the five stages of grief can help you find acceptance, heal and move forward.

Coping with Different Types of Grief

Grief is experienced differently by everyone; that's why there are so many different types. The way we cope with it varies, too. The Love Always Project believes healing can begin when we're ready to acknowledge the complexity of our emotions. Our grief, loss and bereavement resources can provide the support you need to start processing your feelings. Learn more about our mission to help others cope with loss and discuss end-of-life issues: Join the movement.


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