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Understanding The Different Types of Grief

Do you know what kind of grief you are experiencing? How do the different types of grief differ?

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Types of Grief

Understanding the different types and forms of grief is crucial to moving through the grieving process in a healthy manner. One of life’s biggest struggles is dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Despite the fact that “grief” describes the emotions people feel upon losing a loved one, one word is insufficient to describe the range of emotions that come from various types of grief.

The most healthy way to process grief is to acknowledge it. Neglecting to deal with grief can result in long-term, lasting negative effects.

Identifying Different Types of Grief

Do you know what kind of grief you are experiencing?

Grief is a very personal and individual experience, and every person’s nuances vary depending on their religious or spiritual beliefs. For example, our grief responses are as unique as the different factors that influence our food choices. 

Hunger is, of course, the most important factor that determines what we eat, but what we choose to eat is not determined by physiological or nutritional requirements alone. Some of the other factors that influence food choice include biological, economical, physical, social and psychological needs and desires.

So, How so the different types of grief differ? You can get help with grief support if you are experiencing any of the following types of grief. Keep reading to learn more.

In this guide you will find:

What is Grief?

Grief is a natural and normal response to the loss of a loved one or to a life-changing event. Grief is often triggered by the loss of a spouse, a failed relationship, the loss of a job, or chronic illness.

You may experience a wide range of difficult and unexpected emotions, such as shock, confusion, anger, guilt, disbelief, and loneliness. Depending on the degree of loss, you may experience more intense grief. 

The overwhelming emotional response can disrupt your physical well-being, making it difficult to eat, sleep, or even think clearly.

Grief disrupts the wheel of life of the bereaved person and their social network in ways that manifest themselves behavioural, spiritual, cognitive, physical, and socially.

As a result of this disruption, the bereaved may have unbalance in several dimensions of their wellness, changing their habits and changing their lives.

Overview of the Types of Grief

There have been significant advances to improve understanding of grief with the classification into different types. As a result of the classification, helping professionals such as counsellors, therapists, bereavement support organisations are better able to identify different types of grief and tailor their support accordingly. Below you will find a brief summary of 15 types of grief:

This grief occurs when someone is expecting the death of a loved one and brings unbridled feelings and reactions. Emotions are as intense as those experienced after the loss.

This grief is the response to a death or loss that affects the griever temporarily and gradually disintegrates with time. In the first stage of grief, the griever experiences acute grief. The griever’s sadness is still present, but it isn’t so intense that it prevents them from returning to their normal life over a short period of time.

This grief type is known for being a short-lived response to a loss because it disappears quickly. This grief can be experienced after someone dies from a terminal illness or due to inadequate attachment with the deceased. This could happen when someone or something fills the void, when there is a sense of distance, or when the anticipation of grief begins.

This type of grief occurs when the bereaved person does not go through the normal and healthy grieving process, but rather tries to suppress the pain that they are experiencing, further complicating their grief.

Grief that persists for an extended amount of time is called prolonged grief. The loss continues to cause extreme distress with no improvement in functioning or feeling better. Rather, the bereaved person will continuously experience grief, and be unable to engage in healthy grieving.

Normal grief extended over a longer period of time is known as complicated grief. Despite the lack of consensus regarding when normal grief becomes complicated grief, most grief specialists agree that a bereaved person is experiencing complicated grief if they are still in their acute grief phase six months after the death. In other words, when the feelings of loss are so intense that the griever has trouble carrying out their daily tasks and routine.

It is experienced by a group of people, community, village, or whole country after any national crisis or natural disaster. Grief of this type can also occur when a famous figure dies

Often referred to as grief overload, this happens when an individual experiences multiple losses either all at once or before dealing with a previous loss. You may begin to question your ability to cope with further loss after experiencing multiple losses within a short time.

The expression of this grief occurs when feelings of grief do not emerge immediately after the loss and may appear sometime later. The grief of this nature can take weeks, months, or even longer to develop and manifest itself. When that occurs, you may feel acute grief, while those who have progressed in their grief may appear to have moved forward.

This type of loss occurs when a grieving person experiences this when their social network of friends and family consider the loss as trivial and unworthy of being grieved and they receive little or no support from them.

An individual experiencing this type of grief experiences intense feelings of sadness, guilt, and anger, and becomes hostile towards those they believe are to blame for their loss. The grief of a bereaved person can manifest itself in extreme behaviour changes that can affect every aspect of that person’s life. 

Grief manifests itself through maladaptive thoughts and behaviours that stop them from adapting to new or challenging circumstances and is often known as persistent complex bereavement disorder. The emotions are extremely painful and keep the bereaved person trapped in a continuous cycle of grief.

Typically, people with this type of grief suppress their emotions and hide their feelings or don’t recognize that they are linked to the loss. Often, this type of loss is common among men, or in societies and cultures in which there are rules for how one must act, or appear following the loss of a close loved one.

If emotions, especially painful and complex ones, are suppressed and kept from being experienced, there is still a need for them to be expressed. This type of grief occurs when the bereaved person shows few outward signs of grief and develops physical illness instead. Just as you think you’ve overcome it, grief resurfaces in another form.

This grief occurs after experiencing an unpredictable loss of a loved one. In addition, the shock can trigger a post-trauma survival mechanism in the griever that can affect mental functioning and overall health.

In-depth look at the types of grief with examples

Let’s take a deeper look at grief types; highlight the what to watch out for and examples.

Anticipatory Grief

This grief is the reaction to the loss you were anticipating, and you feel the grief as soon as you know and accept that someone is going to die. For example, knowing someone is ill with a terminal disease, you begin grieving before the actual death happens.  

Anticipatory grief is very different compared to the grief response felt after the death, and it allows family members to prepare their minds in advance and acknowledge the reality. In addition, it enables you to spend meaningful time with the sick person, leading to a sense of closure and peace.

This type of grief is complex and can bring a variety of emotions at once. One can feel guilty for grieving over a person who is still alive. You may feel confusion, anger, helplessness, and loss of emotional control, but at the same time, seeing them suffering and finally letting them go can bring a feeling of relief too. 

Examples of anticipatory grief

  • A person who has lost autonomy and/or ability.
  • An individual who is terminally ill and/or their family.

Normal Grief

Normal grief is when people continue with their normal routine despite the feelings of grief. They may look completely normal from the outside, as if they are not affected by the loss. However, the agony, numbness, and discomfort are present somewhere under that normal outer surface. 

Normal grief can be complex, as one time you may feel nothing while being busy with your normal routine, but then there’s a sudden burst of accentuated grief. (Accentuated is not grief itself; it’s a term which means to make something more prominent and noticeable)

The intensity of normal grief decreases gradually with time and may not be obvious to everyone. You won’t even get the slightest idea about whether they are grieving from the outside unless you’re with the griever 24/7.

Examples of normal grief

  • The death of a family member, relative, friend, co-worker, celebrity etc.
  • The loss of job, income, home, car, status etc.
  • Divorce or a breakup.

Complicated Grief

Complicated grief is one of the rare types of grief and is experienced by a small percentage of people. The griever displays avoidance behaviour and experiences irrational thoughts that prevent the person to carry on with their lives.

In rare cases, people dealing with normal grief might experience complicated grief in which the death of a loved one doesn’t fade over time and can prevent them from leading a normal life. This again depends on the bonding or kind of relationship a person had with the deceased.

For example, someone grieving grieving the death of a loved one who has committed suicide or died in a tragic accident.

The griever tries to avoid the objects and memories that remind them of the lost person to stop their emotions from being triggered. The future without a loved one seems impossible and unappealing, and they keep on the feeling that their loved ones somehow will reappear in their lives. 

The pain is so overwhelming and long-lasting that it can lead to mental disorders or self-harm tendencies.

In addition, people with complicated grief are so invested in the loss that they find it difficult to distract themselves and continuously get caught up in troubling thoughts. 

People with complicated grief need treatment and should seek professional help. Some treatment options include psychotherapy, interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and hybrid therapy. These treatments can help you identify the losses that require mourning and draw links with the present loss to diminish the level of complicated grief. 

Examples of complicated grief

  • Bereaved parents.
  • Death by suicide or tragic accident.
  • Bereaved person was dependent on the deceased.

Delayed Grief

When the feelings of grief don’t show up instantly after a loss but arrive months or even years later, it is known as delayed grief. The shock from the loss or some immediate problems we have to deal with after the loss postpone the grief, and it catches up with us weeks or months later after the funeral.

For example, A widowed parent who must take care of the kids, or a person who must honour the prior commitments or other matters. 

The grief can be triggered by another loss or a seemingly unrelated event. It comes out of nowhere and brings a storm of devastating sadness, guilt, and anger.

The symptoms of delayed grief are aches and pains, yearning, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and helplessness. Once it hits you, it feels no less than immediate grief. In extreme cases, delayed grief can invoke suicidal tendencies. 

Examples of delayed grief

  • Widowed parents left to look after their children on their own.
  • When a bereaved person must attend to other matters or honour prior commitments.
  • When a bereaved person cares for their surviving parents.

Exaggerated Grief

Exaggerated grief is when the grieving process exaggerates and manifests itself through hyper-grieving thoughts, behaviours and mental health. In the beginning, it feels like normal grief but grows in intensity with time. The person suffering from exaggerated grief feels devastating sadness. 

For example, a widower dealing with an unexpected death of a spouse from an accident or short-term illness. 

When a person experiences multiple losses or traumatic events one after the other and doesn’t have enough time to deal with the emotional conflict between them, it results in exaggerated grief. 

The feeling of grief can turn into psychiatric disorders such as rage, suicidal thoughts, and other self-destruction tendencies. 

Examples of exaggerated Grief

  • A bereaved individual dealing with an unexpected death of a spouse from an accident or short-term illness. 

Inhibited Grief

Inhibited grief is identified when the griever shows physical disorders instead of grief. Inhibited grief occurs when the griever attempts to avoid pain by hiding emotions. The feeling of grief becomes so strong that it starts manifesting itself in other ways. 

For example, A widow or widower grieving the death of a spouse who had an extramarital affair. The person will try not to grieve over the death of a person who betrayed them and try to suppress their emotions which eventually lead to the physical like? Manifestations of grief. 

To prevent themselves from facing reality, people turn their attention to other things in hopes to get distracted and keep the pain hidden. Unfortunately, this type of grief can lead to a variety of health issues including, nausea, headaches, muscle and body aches, stomach pains, and digestive issues. In addition, sometimes inhibited grief can lead to other types of grief when you hold it inside you for a long time.  

Examples of inhibited grief

  • The bereaved person may be reluctant to express the depth of the grief that they feel after a loved one has taken an overdose.
  • Siblings or parents grieving the tragic suicide death of a family member.
  • A widow or widower mourning the death of a spouse who had an extramarital affair.

Absent Grief

The absent grief doesn’t display any signs in the initial bereavement, and the griever seems to look unaffected by the loss. 

For example, a widow or widower putting their grief aside to stay strong to support their children. 

In the absent grief, the griever either goes into denial or refuses to acknowledge the devastating loss they have suffered. The grief is so complicated that the person responds to it with seemingly little or no distress.

Examples of absent grief

  • Bereaved parents who put their own grief aside for the sake of their children.
  • Widowed parents
  • People who “stay strong” either for someone else or are pressured to.
  • People who are incapable of dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief is when the griever lacks emotional support and recognition for the loss from society. It is considered unworthy of grief by society and usually gets little support or acceptance.

Some examples of disenfranchised grief are death by suicide, loss of a non-family member, infertility, loss of a job, death of ex-spouse or partner, miscarriage, loss of someone elderly, etc. 

This grief allows much variability and is a rather relative and subjective experience. It ranges dramatically from person to person and culture to culture. Two people can suffer from the same loss, but it will be disfranchised for one, not for the other. 

Examples of disenfranchised grief

  • Death caused by suicide by an offender who is serving their sentence.
  • The death of a spouse involved in extramarital affairs.
  • The death of a patient, client, coworker, celebrity, foster child, parent, etc.

Collective Grief

This grief happens when the loss is experienced by the whole community, society, or nation. It can be an extreme change or loss of lives in a natural disaster, war, or pandemic. 

The collective grief comes with a feeling of helplessness, and we feel powerless to control the crises. In addition, the healing process is different from individual grief, which makes us feel spur-of-the-moment. 

Examples of collective grief

  • The tragic death of Princess Diana affected millions of people.
  • The recent earthquake in Lombok cause mass devastation to the small Indonesian island.
  • The death of a famous celebrity is mourned by millions of people, such as the tragic death of Michael Jackson caused collective grief to his fans worldwide.

Traumatic Grief

This grief is experienced when someone suffers an unpredictable loss of a loved one. The unexpected loss triggers a post-trauma survival mechanism in addition to mourning. As a result, it disrupts the mental functioning and overall health of the griever. 

Some symptoms of traumatic grief are longing for the person, disbelief about the death, feeling envious and angry with others, being drawn to the places related to the disease, spending time alone, difficulty trusting others, etc. 

The bereaved person has to deal with the traumatic loss and the grief that comes along. Grief occurs for a number of reasons: the relation of the bereaved and deceased must be a very close one, circumstances involving the death, or the poor coping skills of the bereaved.

Examples of collective grief

  • Dealing with the sudden death of a spouse or loved in an accident (air, road, water)
  • The death of a spouse or partner during childbirth.

Chronic Grief

As the name suggests, chronic or prolonged grief is a type of grief that lasts over a long time. The griever will continually experience deep sorrow for years without proceeding through the stages of grief. 

For example, the death of a significant person such as a spouse, the birth of a disabled child, or losing something familiar such as a house in a fire or a natural calamity. 

Any overly impacting loss can trigger chronic grief and can impair your ability to engage in routine activities. In addition, it is different from normal grief and takes a bit longer to delete, which delays the healing process. 

Examples of chronic grief

  • People who are bereaved who were heavily dependent on their deceased loved ones.
  • Those who have experienced a severe loss due to war or natural disasters.


Masked Grief

In masked grief, the people choose to suppress their emotions and hide their feelings. They become adept at controlling emotions and don’t accept the suffering as a part of their loss. 

For example, someone married and having an extramarital affair cannot mourn the death of their lover if it is hidden from their family. As a result, they find it difficult to grieve their loss and move forward towards healing. 

Suppressing the grief and denying the emotions can potentially make them suffer in other ways. The grief symptoms are often difficult to recognise and manifest themselves in the form of physical ailments or maladaptive behaviours such as headaches, insomnia, heartburn, etc. 

The masked grief impairs day-to-day functioning, and the first step towards healing is coming to terms with your loss and accepting the reality. 

Examples of masked grief

  • A parent who develops some sort of an illness soon after or on the anniversary of their child’s death.
  • A sibling showing similar symptoms to the cause of death of their brother or sister.
  • Someone in an extramarital affair or involved in a hidden relationship may be unable to mourn the death of their lover if it is hidden from their social network of friends and family.

Cumulative Grief

It is called cumulative grief when the grief builds up after experiencing one loss after the other or multiple life-changing events. Grief emerges when one has to deal with more than one loss and doesn’t have enough time to process the shock. 

For example, the loss of several family members in a tragic accident, loss of multiple pets, and other losses not involving death can also add up. 

The symptoms include numbness, avoiding grief, or processing the one-loss but failure to process the next. 

Examples of cumulative grief

  • A tragic accident involving multiple family members.
  • People of old age who experience the death of family members and friends without adequate time to process and heal from each one.
  • An unexpected death of a friend followed by the loss of a loved one.

Abbreviated Grief

This grief has the shortest time period and doesn’t last long as expected. However, it can result after the death of a person from a terminal illness or lack of attachment with the deceased. 

For example, death of a distant relative, death of an elderly or widow or widower getting married soon after the spouse’s death. 

The grieving process is short because of the immediate replacement of the deceased and the griever carry on with their lives. So the grief is short-lived, but it’s a genuine form of grieve, and it’s important to allow the bereavement process to happen. 

Examples of abbreviated grief:

  • The child grieves the loss of someone they don’t know very well – such as a distant relative.
  • A widow or a widower who finds love soon after the death of their spouse.
  • The caregiver of a terminally ill relative.

FAQs about the different types of grief

Here are answers to a few frequently asked questions about the different types of grief

The Types of Grief: What are their similarities and differences?

Sometimes complicated and chronic grief are used interchangeably. However, there’s a difference in both. In chronic grief, griefers face difficulty accepting the loss, but complicated grief begins when you can’t be even see how your life has changed after that loss. 

Anticipatory and abbreviated are also similar in a way that both involve short recovery time, but reasons are entirely different. In anticipatory grief, you already know that death will occur no matter what, which makes you accept the grief before it even occurs, while in abbreviated grief, the recovery time is short because the deceased is immediately replaced after the loss. 

Inhibited grief and masked grief are similar in that the griever tries to hide their feelings, and grief manifests itself in physical disorders.

What's the Difference Between Normal Grief and Complicated Grief?

Normal grief is a natural and necessary response in which people respond to a traumatic event and temporarily affect the griever. The survivors mostly display the following symptoms: crying, sobbing, sleep difficulty, feeling lethargic, withdrawal from normal activities, difficulty concentrating, etc. However, the griever gradually resumes their normal lives after some time. 

However, in complicated grief, the grief doesn’t subside and fade away that easily and can last for an extended period of time. It prevents the griever from resuming their normal lives. The symptoms include intense feelings of sadness, anger, inability to focus, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. 

What Is Considered A Healthy Type of Grief?

Healthy grieving is all about finding a middle ground between your grief and normal life and finding a sense of peace and acceptance rather than agonising pain. Grieving is an active process, and it’s impossible to withdraw yourself from normal pursuits of life completely.

Grieving is ok, but at the same time, treat yourself with some care and affection that you would offer to a loved one in dealing with a similar situation. The goal is to find balance, so allow yourself to set aside some private time daily and enjoy some good times, too, without feeling guilty about it.

What Does It Mean When You Feel More Than One Type of Grief?

When a person experiences more than one type of grieving, it’s known as cumulative grief. Cumulative grief is the accumulation of unprocessed grief as a result of multiple losses. It mostly happens when you experience various traumatic events and losses in close succession. 

However, it’s normal to feel more than one type of grieving as you work through the stages of grief towards healing. As soon as you learn to navigate through your thoughts, you’ll find better ways to cope with them and move forward in your healing journey.

How Do I Identify My Type of Grief?

To help yourself through the grief, maintain the balance between the time you spend grieving the loss and the time you spend dealing with your daily life. Just focusing on one aspect means you’ll get off track. Here are some approaches you can use to cope with your loss more effectively:

  • Treat yourself with compassion and tolerance and indulge in self-care activities.
  • Grieving is an ongoing process and takes time, so rather than giving yourself a deadline, be gentle and allow yourself time to grieve. 
  • Don’t take up new responsibilities, and allow yourself to heal first.
  • Accept the help and support, and don’t try to deal with everything on your own.
  • Share your thoughts and memories with someone you trust.
  • Try to exercise and meditate regularly. 
  • Allow yourself to enjoy some pleasurable activities.

How to deal with different types of grief?

To help yourself through the grief, maintain the balance between the time you spend grieving the loss and the time you spend dealing with your daily life. Just focusing on one aspect means you’ll get off track. Here are some approaches you can use to cope with your loss more effectively:

  • Treat yourself with compassion and tolerance and indulge in self-care activities.
  • Grieving is an ongoing process and takes time, so rather than giving yourself a deadline, be gentle and allow yourself time to grieve. 
  • Don’t take up new responsibilities, and allow yourself to heal first.
  • Accept the help and support, and don’t try to deal with everything on your own.
  • Share your thoughts and memories with someone you trust.
  • Try to exercise and meditate regularly. 
  • Allow yourself to enjoy some pleasurable activities.


Grief is a universal experience that everyone faces at some point in their lives. As bereaved individuals become aware of the different types of grief they are experiencing, they can gradually adapt, learn to cope with the loss, eventually adjust to their new life without their deceased loved one.

However, amidst grief and sadness, it is possible to find a positive and healthy approach towards grieving. Getting the right bereavement support can help manage the stress and negative emotions associated with grief, offering the griever a mental and physical break that is beneficial to their health.

Understanding Grief, Loss and Bereavement

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