The 6 Types of Grief

The 6 Types of Grief

Last update: 15 February, 2017

Grief is a state in which all human beings find themselves many times throughout our existence. Even before our birth, we already start experiencing loss. In turn, each loss implies a suffering that should be processed and passed.

The common factor in every type of grief is that it implies a loss. But given that losses can be very diverse in nature, there are different types of grief. We speak of “evolutionary griefs” when we refer to the losses implied in the passing from one age to another. There are also the “social griefs”, such as the loss of a job, retirement, exile, etc.

“Only the people capable of loving intensely can suffer a great pain, but this same need to love serves to counteract their griefs, and it cures them.”
-Leo Tolstoy-

However, the griefs which bring the most difficulties are the ones produces by the loss of a loved one, especially through death. This is due in great measure to that the fact that, most of the time, the bond is broken. But everything else remains intact. The love that the bond was made of, and the dreams, fantasies and hopes that accompany it. That’s why the suffering is intense and demands a great deal of work to overcome. From the perspective of affective loss, there are various types of grief that we will describe below.

Anticipatory grief

This grief takes place when you are aware that you will suffer an imminent loss, but it hasn’t taken place yet. This happens, for example, when you undergo a divorce or a long trip. Or when someone suffers from a terminal illness or euthanasia is planned.


The difference between this and other types of grief is that in anticipatory grief the feelings tend to be much more ambivalent and unstable. Since the person is still around, the mourners will alternate between closeness and distance. They want to feel the presence of that person for the last time. But at the same time, they fear the attachment that this generates. In these cases, the best thing to do is express your feelings openly and directly with the person that will be departing.

Absent grief

This is a kind of grief in which the person affected blocks their feelings. They try to act as if nothing is happening. In fact, if it is brought up, they don’t give it any more importance than any other issue.

In this type of case, what’s being applied is a mechanism of denial. The impact is so strong, that the person doesn’t feel capable of confronting it. That’s why they focus on other aspects of their life. The problem is that the hidden sorrow always returns. Be it in the form of irritability, anxiety or a physical illness, among others.

Chronic grief

Chronic grief presents itself when someone fails to work through the loss of a loved one. One way or another, they refuse to accept what has happened. Instead, they focus obsessively on keeping alive the memory of the person that has departed. They end up paralyzing their life and constantly maintaining a stance of pain.


People with depressive tendencies are more likely to settle into this type of grief, which can also turn into a way of life. It is characterized by anxiety, sadness and guilt, as well as a sensation of impotence and disillusion. This type of grief requires professional help.

Delayed grief

This is, usually, an effect of absent grief. Although at first the person tries to ignore their pain, after a while, it reemerges with great force and maybe in the least expected moment. Sometimes several years can even go by before this type of mourning begins.

It could also happen that someone can’t experience grief in the moment in which they experience the loss, due to special conditions. For example, a demanding work commitment or a pressing family situation. The postponed pain appears later on and presents some complications since, now, it has to be experienced alone.

Inhibited grief

This type of grief is experienced by people who have great difficulty expressing their feelings. In the case of children, for example, who can’t seem to put into words everything that this situation represents. In many occasions, adults ignore their pain and don’t help them overcome it. Adults simply think that “children just don’t understand”.


The process of mourning is also inhibited in the case of people with some kind of cognitive disability. Or in situations such as a father or mother, who try to stay strong in order to not affect their kids. Or simply, when someone is very reserved and doesn’t have the opportunity to talk about what they are feeling. In any case, the inhibition translates into obsessions, constant depression, anxiety, etc.

Unauthorized grief

In unauthorized grief, the environment or the person’s surroundings manifest a rejection towards the pain they are experimenting. Sooner or later, others always try to overrule grief at some point because, for someone who hasn’t lived through this suffering, what the mourner should do is let go and move on with their life.

However, there are specific situations in which mourning is openly disowned from the very beginning. For example, when a man or woman who was involved in an extramarital relationship dies. The lover “has no right” to express their sorrow. Sometimes this can also apply to the death of a pet. Since it generates a great deal of pain, but others will tend to disqualify that type of suffering.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.