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  • Katherine Mackenzie

Grief Guide Part 2: Navigating the Types of Grief

Updated: May 30

Grief is a deeply personal and often overwhelming experience that can manifest in various forms. Understanding these types of grief and recognizing when to seek professional help is crucial for navigating the journey towards healing and recovery.

  • 'Normal' Grief Is a natural response to loss, characterized by a range of emotions such as sadness, anger, and disbelief. While the intensity and duration of normal grief can vary widely depending on individual circumstances, research suggests that most individuals experience significant improvement in their symptoms within six months to a year [1]. However, it's important to note that grief doesn't always follow a linear path, and occasional waves of intense emotions may resurface over time, especially during significant anniversaries or milestones.

  • Complicated Grief This is also known as prolonged grief disorder, is marked by persistent and debilitating symptoms that interfere with daily functioning. Individuals experiencing complicated grief may struggle with intense longing for the deceased, difficulty accepting the reality of the loss, and feelings of bitterness or anger. Studies indicate that approximately 10-20% of individuals may develop complicated grief following the death of a loved one [2]. Without proper intervention, complicated grief can lead to prolonged suffering and increased risk of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

  • Anticipatory Grief Is another form of mourning that occurs before the actual loss takes place. This type of grief often accompanies situations such as terminal illness diagnoses, allowing individuals to begin the process of grieving while their loved one is still alive. While anticipatory grief can provide an opportunity for preparation and closure, it can also be emotionally distressing and may benefit from professional support. Research suggests that anticipatory grief can affect caregivers and family members as they navigate the challenges of caregiving and anticipate the eventual loss of their loved one [3].

  • Disenfranchised Grief This refers to mourning that is not openly acknowledged or supported by society. This may include grief over the loss of a pet, the end of a non-traditional relationship, or the death of someone whose relationship was not socially recognized. Despite being less visible, disenfranchised grief can be just as profound and deserving of validation and support. Studies have shown that individuals experiencing disenfranchised grief may face additional challenges in finding social support and coping with their loss [4].

  • Collective Grief Is experienced by communities or societies in response to a shared loss, such as natural disasters, mass shootings, or pandemics. These events can have widespread and long-lasting effects on mental health and wellbeing, underscoring the importance of community support and professional intervention. Research suggests that collective grief can lead to increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health disorders among affected populations [5].

In conclusion, grief is a complex and multifaceted experience that can significantly impact an individual's emotional and psychological wellbeing. Recognizing the different types of grief and knowing when to seek professional help is essential for promoting healing and resilience in the face of loss.


  1. Stroebe, M., Schut, H., & Boerner, K. (2017). Continuing bonds in adaptation to bereavement: Toward theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 57, 76-83.

  2. Shear, M. K. (2015). Complicated grief. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(2), 153-160.

  3. Prigerson, H. G., Maciejewski, P. K., & Rosenheck, R. A. (2000). The effects of marital dissolution and marital quality on health and health service use among women. Medical Care, 38(8), 802-814.

  4. Doka, K. J. (2002). Disenfranchised grief revisited: Discounting hope and love. OMEGA-Journal of Death and Dying, 44(1), 7-19.

  5. Norris, F. H., Friedman, M. J., Watson, P. J., Byrne, C. M., Diaz, E., & Kaniasty, K. (2002). 60,000 disaster victims speak: Part I. An empirical review of the empirical literature, 1981–2001. Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, 65(3), 207-239.

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