Types of Grief: Understanding the Different Forms of Loss

Grief is a natural and necessary process that arises when we experience loss. Whether we lose a loved one, a job, a relationship, or even a way of life, grief is a necessary part of the human experience. However, grief is not a one-size-fits-all emotion. There are many different types of grief, each with its distinct characteristics and challenges. In this article, we will explore the different types of grief and how they can affect us.

1. Normal Grief

Normal grief, also known as uncomplicated grief, is the most common type of grief. This form of grief arises after the death of a loved one, and it follows a predictable pattern of emotional and physical symptoms. Normal grief involves feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, shock, and confusion. It can also cause physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue. However, normal grief does not usually interfere with the individual’s ability to function in their daily life. With time, the symptoms of normal grief gradually decrease in intensity, and the individual is eventually able to move on.

2. Complicated Grief

Complicated grief is a type of grief that is more severe and prolonged than normal grief, and it can interfere with a person’s ability to function in daily life. Complicated grief arises when an individual is unable to accept the reality of their loss or let go of their grief. Symptoms of complicated grief may include extreme sadness, anger, guilt, or anxiety. It can also cause physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and difficulty breathing. Complicated grief may require professional support, such as therapy or counseling, to help the individual work through their emotions and learn to cope with their loss.

3. Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is a type of grief that occurs before a loss has actually happened. This form of grief often arises when a loved one is terminally ill or has a chronic illness. Anticipatory grief involves feelings of sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty about the future. It can also cause physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and fatigue. Anticipatory grief can be beneficial as it can allow individuals to prepare for the loss and work through their emotions before the actual loss occurs. However, it can also be challenging as it can be a long and drawn-out process.

4. Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief is a type of grief that is not recognized or acknowledged by society. This form of grief often arises when an individual experiences a loss that is not considered “normal” or “acceptable” by society. Examples of disenfranchised grief include the loss of a pet, a miscarriage, or a divorce. Disenfranchised grief can be challenging as the individual may feel isolated and unsupported in their grief. It may require finding support from others who have experienced a similar loss or seeking professional help.

5. Collective Grief

Collective grief is a form of grief that arises when a group of people experiences a loss together. This can include natural disasters, mass shootings, or other traumatic events that impact a community or society as a whole. Collective grief can be challenging as it can lead to feelings of intense sadness, anger, or frustration. It can also be beneficial as it brings people together and encourages them to support one another in their grief. Collective grief often requires community-based support and action to help individuals work through their emotions and heal from the loss.

6. Chronic Grief

Chronic grief is a type of grief that is long-lasting and does not seem to improve over time. This form of grief can be caused by a variety of factors, such as a complicated loss or unresolved trauma. Chronic grief can involve feelings of depression, hopelessness, and despair. It can also cause physical symptoms such as chronic pain and fatigue. Chronic grief often requires professional support, such as therapy or counseling, to help the individual work through their emotions and find ways to manage their grief over time.


Grief is an inevitable part of the human experience, and there are many different types of grief that individuals may experience. Understanding the different types of grief can help individuals work through their emotions more effectively and seek appropriate support when needed. Whether it’s normal grief, complicated grief, anticipatory grief, disenfranchised grief, collective grief, or chronic grief, it’s important to remember that healing takes time and that everyone copes with grief differently.


FAQs about Types of Grief

What are the different types of grief?

There are several types of grief, including anticipatory grief, complicated grief, chronic grief, and unresolved grief. Anticipatory grief occurs before an impending loss, while complicated grief can be the result of a traumatic or sudden loss. Chronic grief lasts for an extended period, and unresolved grief can lead to prolonged sadness and depression.

How do I know if I am experiencing complicated grief?

Complicated grief may involve intense feelings of disbelief, bitterness, anger, and a sense of purposelessness. It may also include difficulty moving on and maintaining normal activities. If these symptoms continue for an extended period, it may be beneficial to seek professional help from a mental health provider.

What can I do to cope with different types of grief?

It is essential to recognize your emotions and allow yourself to feel them. It is okay to seek support from family or friends, or consider joining a support group. Engaging in activities that bring you joy, and practicing self-care activities, such as exercise or meditation, can also be beneficial for coping with grief. Professional counseling or therapy may also be helpful for working through difficult emotions.


1. Lundorff, M., Holmgren, H., Zachariae, R., Farver-Vestergaard, I., & O’Connor, M. (2017). Prevalence of prolonged grief disorder in adult bereavement: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 212, 138-149. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2017.01.030

2. Bonanno, G. A., Wortman, C. B., Lehman, D. R., Tweed, R. G., Haring, M., Sonnega, J., … & Nesse, R. M. (2002). Resilience to loss and chronic grief: A prospective study from preloss to 18-months postloss. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(5), 1150-1164. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.83.5.1150

3. Maciejewski, P. K., Maercker, A., Boelen, P. A., & Prigerson, H. G. (2016). “Prolonged grief disorder” and “persistent complex bereavement disorder”, but not “complicated grief”, are one and the same diagnostic entity: An analysis of data from the Yale Bereavement Study. World Psychiatry, 15(3), 266-275. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20342