What is Grief???
What is grief I hear you ask?
Grief can come in many forms; it is not always that easy to recognize when someone is grieving. Grief does not have a switch or a predictable nature, far from it. Humans experience grief as a normal reaction to losing something they have had an emotional attachment to. Such as the death of a loved one, pet, the loss of a job, home, even the end of a relationship and much more.
There are many different types of grief, this is because humans experience grief/loss differently from each other. There may be similar emotional and physical symptoms, but the actual experience of the loss is purely an individual one. This could explain why some people get upset when grieving if another person says to them “I know exactly how you feel”. Remember it is a normal human reaction to grieve when experiencing loss.
There are several types of grief.
Also known as uncomplicated grief, typically lasts 6months -2 years following the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship. Although this a typical timescale this definition of “normal grief” differs across time and cultures.
Anticipatory grief is typically felt prior to the loss of a loved one, perhaps due to terminal illness or dementia. This type of anticipatory grief can also be due to the unknown, what will happen, how will it happen or when will it happen?
This type of grief is just as intense as other grief types, but it is also just as normal, it is the body and brain’s way of preparing for the outcome.
Anxiety is the biggest part of anticipatory grief as the fear of being left alone, how am I going to cope, or even, who will I be now, are questioned. This can be the hardest part of anticipatory grief because of all the unknown fears being felt prior to the loss.
Delayed grief is as suggested delayed and typically bought about by another major loss or event. This type of grief is common in cultures where it is discouraged to grieve, or in situations where it is hard to accept that you can grieve for this loss i.e., a relative that you were not close to.
Also known as traumatic or prolonged grief, sometimes experienced by the loss of someone that was not known very well, but this person had an impact on your life. It is normally bought about by the inability to accept the death of the loved one. This type of grief can be diagnosed by a doctor and is seen as a medical condition. This is due to the severity of symptoms such as feeling suicidal or worthlessness and can potentially last for years.
Chronic grief is like complicated grief and is prolonged in nature and does not seem to reduce over time. Some doctors believe this is a coping strategy, a way of holding onto the loved one, keeping their memory alive and fulfilling any promises made to the loved one prior to death i.e., not remarrying.
Disenfranchised grief is prevalent in pet owners, as they feel it is unacceptable to society to be as upset for a pet as they would a person, resulting in things such as not taking time off and keeping their grief to themselves.
Distorted grief is normally when someone who is grieving gets stuck at the anger phase of grief. It is a normal stage of grief to be angry at a loss or death, however not for prolonged periods of time. Remaining angry at themselves, the world, and others. It can even resort to a form of self-harm as a way of coping.
Prolonged grief is another grief that can be medially diagnosed, 10-20% of people are affected by this type of grief. It can have long term effects on physical health. People often report experiencing, being stuck and have a yearning or aching for the loved one lost. Quite often feeling unsure of their identity now, a lack of self-worth and lacking the drive to move forward.
Masked grief is when the person with the grief does not recognize or acknowledge they are experiencing grief. Quite commonly experienced in men, again due to the societal pressure of “being a man”. It can also be if someone were close to another person that was secret to the rest of their world. Therefore, they keep their grief hidden. This grief can be dangerous leading to mental illnesses.
Cumulative grief is a grief that builds over time due to numerous deaths or losses. The body and brain need time to individually process each death and loss, which can be difficult if experiencing numerous deaths and losses in a relatively short time. Many people are likely experiencing this type of grief during this Covid-19 pandemic as it has resulted in lots of losses in a fairly short time, i.e., loss of socialising, job, friendships, and death of loved ones.
Exaggerated grief is when someone who is experiencing grief but with exaggerated symptoms, such as exaggerated actions and words. It can even lead to developing mental health conditions like phobias after experiencing a loss.
Absent grief is when there appears to be no grief following a loss of a loved one. It is often experienced by people who have been care givers and experienced anticipatory grief. This is due to the individual already grieving throughout the care prior to the death, or there is a sense of relief that their loved one is no longer suffering.
Traumatic grief occurs after an unexpected or sudden loss, such as people that have been killed by terrorism, car crashes, suicides and more. This grief is not just a process of mourning, but it has traumatized the individual too, causing anxiety and fear.
Abbreviated grief is a short- term grief, particularly experienced when the person feels they should move on quickly. Quite often this grief is seen in people who re-marry quickly, it does not mean they are not grieving because they have re-married, it is often the case that the person is experiencing prolonged or delayed grief.
Inhibited grief is when a person is showing some signs of grief, but not to the level of expected, based on the relationship had. It may include some aspects of masked or delayed grief.
Collective grief is when experienced by communities or societies. Such as in the death of a major public figure or celebrity, a pandemic, or events that affect a nation.
Now that you have an understanding of the various types of grief, remember it is a normal human reaction to grieve. It might be easier to think of the experience of grief as a wave. Grief is not a script, nor is it a fixed time or set of symptoms. It is more like a wave that can flow up, or down, fade in and out. Grief does not vanish overnight, it is likely to remain, as it is a reminder of the love that was held for the relative, job, home, pet, life.
It is a normal reaction to be angry when grieving this is due to the uncertainty of the loss. Humans experience anger as a second emotion, behind this there may be fear, fear of the unknown. It may be that the person who is angry is because they cannot accept the loss or the reasons behind the loss. Anger is a way of processing what has happened and coming to terms with it. If the anger becomes prolonged, it is worth seeking advice. Talking to someone about their feelings and grief can be a great way to help. Talking can help the person to remember what it was about this loss that they loved, this is why it is now hurting.