How to deal with grief caused by different types of loss

Grief is a lengthy and complex process which, among other things, is determined by your relationship with the deceased person and the circumstances of their death. So for example, grieving the loss of someone who died as a result of a long illness is different to that of someone who was a victim of a road accident.

The following list contains some of the different types of loss and circumstances of death which are likely to influence your grief:

Your relationship with the deceased person

The level of attachment to the deceased person, their role in your life and the particulars of your relationship with them are likely to influence your grief and its effects.

Grief after the loss of a spouse

The death of a spouse or partner can be disruptive and challenging. It leaves behind a loss which affects not just the surviving partner but the whole family. In those instances, grief may not be a priority at the beginning, particularly if there are children who need support through this difficult time for them.

Grief after the loss of a child

The loss of a child is particularly upsetting. It is also likely to affect the marriage or relationship with your spouse as well as the surviving brothers and/or sisters. It can have an impact on your work and other relationships with family members, colleagues and friends.

Grief after pregnancy loss

This type of loss is traumatic and painful. Coping with grief after pregnancy loss can be complicated especially if you feel that your grief is not recognised. Talking to your spouse or partner helps to clear any misunderstandings and so does joining a grief group for miscarriage and pregnancy loss.

Grief after the loss of a parent

Parental loss is particularly upsetting to children but the pain of losing a parent is just as strong in young adults and grown ups. It’s likely to come as a shock even if it was expected.

Please be aware of the fact that feelings of relief are a normal reaction to loss which is the result of a long illness.

Grief after the loss of a grandparent

Although most of us are likely to deal with the loss of a grandparent at some point in life, it’s still as devastating as the loss of any other family member. It can leave you feeling guilty for not spending enough time with them and it’s likely to raise questions about your own mortality.

Grief after the loss of a sibling

Losing a brother or sister is devastating not just for the surviving siblings but for the parents, grandparents and other close family members. Your coping ability and grieving needs can be influenced by age.

Grief after the loss of a friend

We often underestimate the impact from the death of a friend but in reality, it’s just as significant as any other loss. Be prepared to deal with the full range of emotions and physical effects of grief as well as facing thoughts about your own mortality. Talking to mutual friends about your feelings can be helpful.

Circumstances of their death

The individual circumstances surrounding the death of your loved one are likely to influence your grief and its effects.

Death after long illness

Although that type of death is anticipated, it still comes as a shock and triggers grief. Expect to go through the grieving process and deal with its emotional and physical effects. If you were the carer of someone with a long illness, it’s quite normal to feel a sense of relief after their death. Adjusting to life after that takes time because you also have to deal with the loss of your role as a carer.

Traumatic death

Losing a loved one to accident or as the result of any other sudden and traumatic death is particularly difficult. Although your reaction is individual, any traumatic death is likely to raise additional questions to satisfy your need and right to know and understand what happened. It can also leave you with nightmares or graphic images of the events.

The involvement of the authorities (legal and medical) can prolong the grieving process. Joining a specialist support group and talking to others who are dealing with similar type of bereavement can be very helpful.

Stigmatised loss

Sometimes the circumstances surrounding certain types of death can be stigmatised by society and make it difficult to cope. Examples of stigmatised loss are HIV/AIDS, substance related causes, suicide, homicide, mental health issues etc. These types of loss are likely to complicate your grieving journey and in some cases lead to unrecognised grief. Joining a support group of others who are dealing with the same type of loss can help.

You can find contact details of organisations that provide relevant bereavement support in the Help & Support page of the website.

Which types of loss have you experienced?

More resources

After the funeral

Grief help and support

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