Grief is not a linear process. This is a common idea when processing and understanding the impact of grief. Acknowledging the importance of the grief process not being perfectly chronological is a pillar of grief understanding. Another equally vital piece of knowledge about grief is knowing some of the different types of grieving that people experience. Below are some examples of the differentiating types of grief responses explained. (Credit: Tiffany Dilworth, MA, LPC 2023)

Normal Grief

Normal grief is characterized by the griever’s ability to slowly move forward after the loss. This is typically less complicated than other types of grief. Someone grieving “normally” can eventually re-engage in their daily life and have the ability to normalize the concept of loss in a healthy, uninhibited way.

Prolonged or Complicated Grief

Prolonged or Complicated grief presents itself with an extremely long duration. Certain factors such as the nature of the loss, traumatic life experiences, complicated attachment styles, and relationship with the person lost can contribute to a complicated grief response. Symptoms of complicated or prolonged grief include rumination, hallucinations, suicidal ideation, yearning for the person lost for long periods of time, and violent outbursts.

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief is a grief experienced when one is expecting the loss of someone. An example might be grieving a living loved one with a terminal illness, or grieving someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The person has not yet passed, though the griever is in an “in-between place.” Some symptoms include sadness, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. 

Ambiguous Grief 

Ambiguous grief can be characterized as a delay in the grief process, usually relating to one not having appropriate closure. A complicated situation leading to the loss can also lead to an ambiguous grief experience. Potential symptoms might include paranoia that the deceased is still living and obsession with answers around the deceased.

Collective grief

Collective grief occurs when a loss has an impact on an entire community. An example of this might be Queen Elizabeth’s death in London, 911, the Covid19 pandemic, or other tragedies impacting community systems.

Disenfranchised Grief

Disenfranchised grief can occur in multiple circumstances. Some examples include someone’s grief being invalidated, a person’s pain not being acknowledged, or the manner of the death is not spoken about. An example of this might be someone grieving the loss of a public figure not personally known, grieving the loss of an ex-partner who passed, or grieving a suicide in a community where suicide is not acknowledged or recognized.

Delayed Grief

Delayed grief is when the grief process is deferred beyond the timing around the loss. For example, a mom of two young children experiences a loss, and she continues to operate day to day as though nothing happened. One year later, she begins experiencing intense sadness and grief when thinking about the loss. Delayed grief can be an unconscious trauma response, and its function is for the brain to protect the internal system until it is safer to process the loss.

All Types of Grieving are Valid

Now that you know more about some of the types of grief, it is important to understand each grief response is valid. There is no “wrong” way to grieve, though with an understanding of our own responses to loss, we can also better understand ways to move through our grief. 


If you want to talk more about grief or process your own loss, therapy can help. Contact Cityscape Counseling today and match with one of our specialized therapists.

Article written by Ali Morris, LCSWa licensed Chicago therapist who specializes in treating a variety of mental health disorders with evidence based treatments. To schedule an appointment with her or one of our other therapists, contact intake@cityscapecounseling.com

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