Are There Different Types of Grief?

Intense sorrow is caused by the death of a loved one and it’s an emotion that varies in duration and intensity from person to person. In short, there is no easy way to “cure” grief. Instead, psychologists believe that the grieving process must be allowed to run its course over time.

As defined by Merriam-Webster Online, the word “grief” means “deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement.” Grief is associated with feelings of sadness, confusion, despair, fear, anger, anxiety and guilt, to name a few. Grief also has a physical impact on those suffering from it. Often, bereaved individuals experience physical effects such lack of sleep, irritability, fatigue, weight fluctuations and difficulty concentrating.

Anticipatory grief: This is the kind of grief experienced when the death of a loved one is just around the corner, such as in cases of terminal illness or an ailing, elderly family member.

Unanticipated grief: This type of grief is often associated with unexpected loss, such as from an accident.

Ambiguous grief: This form is the result of a circumstance where there is little or no closure about the unfortunate event. For example, if a loved one is kidnapped and never found, a pet runs away, a parent abandons a child or a child abandons a parent.

 Complicated Grief: In most cases, mourners pass through grief successfully, although the timetable varies significantly. In some cases, however, normal side effects associated with grief (the physical and emotional manifestations) can spiral out of control. Anyone experiencing the following symptoms for more than a couple of months should contact a professional for help:  abnormal social withdrawal, aggressive behavior, self-destructive attitudes, feelings of guilt or blame, or an inability to mention the deceased.  If left untreated, complicated grief can become a serious health threat to the individual.

Similarly, psychologists also emphasize that normal grief is not considered a psychological disorder, as is depression. Professional help to treat possible depression should be sought if the bereaved experiences thoughts of suicide, preoccupation with death, severe feelings of guilt, decreased enjoyment in activities, inability to function or persisting feelings of worthlessness.

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