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The Many Faces of Grief

Grief and I are well acquainted—too well acquainted. In 2007 four family members died in succession—my elder daughter, mother of my twin grandchildren, my father-in-law, the family patriarch, my brother and only sibling, and the twin’s father. These experiences changed the focus of my health writing to grief recovery writing. Researching books and articles taught me about the many types of grief.

I realized that it would be smart to be aware of these types, and avoid some of them. For example, I didn’t want the stress of multiple losses to slip into exaggerated grief. So I made a conscious effort to resist this type of grief. Getting stuck in grief wouldn’t help me or my family. Knowing about some of the types of grief can help you on your grief reconciliation/recovery journey.

Anticipatory grief—a feeling of loss before a death or dreaded event occurs—is powerful and prevailing. I felt this type of grief while I was my mother’s family caregiver. She had dementia and, towards the end of her life, every day when I awakened I wondered if this would be the day she died.

Delayed grief—pushing feelings to the back of the mind—is another form of grief. Humans can only handle so much and, according to Judy Tatelbaum, author of The Courage to Grieve, and may delay grief in order to function. Eventually grief catches up with you.

Exaggerated grief, also called chronic grief, is another form. This type of grief can take over your life and linger around for years. Instead of focusing on life, the bereaved focuses on death, and can get stuck in this place and time. One thing is sure, exaggerated grief isn’t healthy.

Complicated grief is a heightened, ongoing state of mourning. Mayo Clinic describes this grief in a website article, “Complicated Grief.” This form of grief has many symptoms, such as feeling that life has no meaning and thoughts of suicide. “Call your doctor if you’re recently lost a loved one and feel such profound disbelief, hopelessness or intense yearning for your loved one that you can’t function in daily life,” Mayo advises.

Seek help if you think your grief is getting complicated, exaggerated, or delayed. Read more articles on The Grief Toolbox website, log into the Open to Hope website, or visit The Compassionate Friends website if you suffered the loss of a child. Grief counseling is another option to pursue. The pain of grief is searing, yet you may find a measure of comfort in the fact that grief stems from love. Your loved one would want you to enjoy the miracle of life.

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About the Author

Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 35+ years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Association for Death Education and Counseling, Minnesota Coalition for Death Education and Support, and World Speakers Association. Hodgson is a Forum Moderator/Writer for and author of eight grief resources.

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