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Types of Grief

Normal Grief

Types of Grief


Complicated Grief

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 7% of bereaved people experience Complicated Grief, a chronic impairing form of grief that interferes with the healing process. Risk factors for Complicated Grief include:


  • A death that is sudden, unexpected, traumatic, violent, or random

  • Death from an overly long illness, such as Alzheimer’s Disease or cancer

  • The loss of a child

  • The mourner's belief that the death could have been prevented

  • A relationship with the dead person that was angry, ambivalent, or overly dependent

  • The mourner having an illness that coincides with the death

  • The mourner's experience of multiple losses within a short time

  • Lack of social support for the mourner 

  • Loss of autonomy (a person with a degenerative illness, an older adult who is no longer capable of caring for themselves)

  • A person who experiences a significant financial setback

  • A person who experiences a loss of dreams, hopes, or expectations (a person or couple who struggle with infertility)


People feeling trapped in grief or who are experiencing intensified grief despite the passage of several months can recover more quickly with support from a professional grief therapist or mental health professional. It’s good to ask, “If you had a broken foot, would you want to suffer until the broken bone healed, or would you want to see a doctor and help the bone heal properly and more quickly?” 



Delayed Grief

Sometimes, we postpone a normal grief response until later. We do this because we need to “be strong” in order to help someone else or we are already experiencing too much stress to allow the healing process to begin, or we need more time to accept the reality of the loss, or we can’t begin grieving until experiencing an event that evokes another strong emotional response.

Disenfranchised Grief

A person may experience disenfranchised grief when he or she cannot openly acknowledge the loss, the loss is not socially accepted, or when the loss cannot be publicly mourned. Causes may include a death related to HIV/AIDS, miscarriage or stillbirth, the death of a same-sex partner or spouse, the death of the partner in an extra-marital affair, or grieving someone you can’t remember (ex. a parent or sibling who died when you were an infant or before you were born).


Victims of family violence may experience grief that is unrecognized, unsupported, and unacknowledged (by the victim and by others who are close to the victim). The aftermath may include addiction, physical health issues, disability, mental illness, continuing victimization, financial instability, PTSD, challenges maintaining a job, custody issues, and rejection by older children who identify with the parent who has the “power” in the relationship.


Traumatic Grief

A person may experience traumatic grief when a death is violent, unexpected, or causes a person to die “before his or her time,” such as an infant, child, murder victim, or accident victim. Traumatic grief can include exposure to war trauma among military members, their families, and their children.

Traumatic grief can also include:


  • Survivors of physical, emotional, or sexual trauma who struggle to feel safe in everyday life

  • Families experiencing eviction and housing instability who feel unprotected and unstable

  • Children of divorce who grieve the loss of safety in the “intact” family 

  • Members of a community who encountered violence and feel destabilized and unsafe


If the loss was unexpected or sudden, and particularly if the loved one died by suicide, the pain can, at times, feel unbearable.

Next:  Children and Grief

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