People deal with grief and loss differently. There is not a set grieving process, and healing from grief is certainly not linear. People may experience symptoms that are commonly associated with grief such as feelings of intense sadness, tearfulness, anger, denial, inability to concentrate, hopelessness, loss of appetite, and more. Not everyone will experience the same symptoms; grief is a highly personal experience that is different depending on the individual. Often, people will grief in a certain way because of the relationship they had with the deceased or the way they died. Although everyone experiences grief in a different way, there are several distinct types of grief.
Anticipatory grief is the reaction to a death that was expected. If the deceased individual was suffering from a long-term illness, people might mentally prepare themselves for their death. Those struggling with anticipatory grief may also find themselves grieving before their loved one dies. This can feel incredibly confusing because the person who is ill is still alive. Grieving before someone dies may make people may feel helpless and like they have lost control of their emotions. Unfortunately, those dealing with anticipatory grief are typically less likely to seek help if they need it. One study found that 40% of widows who experience anticipatory grief felt more stress in the days before their partner died rather than afterwards. No one should have to face anticipatory grief alone. By talking to understanding friends and family members, people can share their thoughts and feelings which can help them cope.
After an individual dies in a traumatic situation, grief can take a different form. People may feel emotions that add to the pain of grieving. For example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may occur if they witnessed the death. Some might see mental images of the death in their minds, even if they did not see it with their own eyes. If a person is dealing with traumatic grief, talking to others about what happened should ease their recovery and reduce the pain they feel. If a person is experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, they should speak with a medical professional who will be best placed to help them recover.
Abbreviated or absent grief.
Some may experience a short-lived grief response, or they may not appear to be grieving at all. Those who experience abbreviated grief may feel that they can let go of much of their grief if someone else comes into their life to fill the role of the deceased. They may also move on quickly because they did not have a positive relationship or a strong attachment to the individual who died. Absent grief, however, can be experienced by anyone. The bereaved may show no signs of grief, and can sometimes act as if nothing has happened. What is usually happening is that the individual is in shock or extreme denial that someone has died. Some may experience absent grief for a few hours or days. However, it can become concerning when it drags out any longer than that.
Grief and loss are painful, but many find that the pain they feel reduces over time. They may discover that they can continue their life almost as usual. However, the loss they feel may never disappear entirely. We’ve written a short guide that explains how to help someone who is grieving that may be useful to those who are supporting the bereaved.