Navigating Thru 12 Types of Grief – How to Find Peace After Grief

Navigating Thru 12 Types of Grief Graphic

Navigating thru 12 types of grief.

One of the biggest problems we face today is grief. We’ve all experienced grief in some form or another, but not everyone understands how to navigate through the 12 different types of grief. Learning to find peace takes time.

There is nothing more devastating than grief. In fact, one of the worst things we can do is ignore the pain. We can’t just push it away. We need to learn to cope with it.  We need to know how to find peace in our recovery.

Grief is complicated. Grief is confusing. Grief is complex. Grief is messy. Grief is frustrating. Grief is painful. But it is also an important part of life.

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If you are going through grief, you are not alone.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 20 percent of adults will experience a major loss in their lifetime.

In this post, I will provide a brief summary of each type of grief.  In addition, Made You Smile Back shall provide you with strategies and guidance you need to overcome grief. Let’s begin.

 What is Grief?

“Grief is not an illness or a mental health problem. Grief is a natural part of life.”

Julie Kaplow

Grief is defined as a negative emotional experience that is accompanied by a desire for change. It can come in many forms. These include loss, bereavement, mourning, despair, regret, guilt, and grief.

Grief can be difficult to understand. It is important to remember that it is normal and natural to feel this way. There is no shame in feeling grief. It is a human emotion. And you are allowed to feel it.

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Take a look at this flow chart from

Grief is a normal and natural response to a loss.

Per, “each person’s grief is unique. Our individual grief experiences are shaped by many factors.” They include:

  • The relationship we had with the person who died
  • The cause of death
  • Our society and cultural background
  • Our personality and coping style
  • Our past experiences with loss
  • Our support network
  • Our religious or spiritual beliefs and customs

Another way to look at these factors and see them in context to one another is this flow chart. 

Grieving is a process. It is a way of processing the loss and it is important to allow yourself to grieve.

Grief is something that you should be able to work through. The more you can acknowledge the grief you are experiencing, the faster you’ll get better. 

I’ve seen many people who are unable to grieve properly because they have never dealt with any kind of loss before. They don’t know what they are supposed to feel. Or they just don’t want to feel anything.

Grief is a Natural Emotion

Grief is a natural emotion that is triggered by loss. While most people experience grief at some point in their lives, not everyone experiences it. People who experience grief are said to suffer from a “grief reaction.”

If you’ve never experienced grief, you might be wondering what it feels like. The truth is that it’s not so much a feeling as it is an action. It’s the action of pushing the pain away.

When you experience grief, you are subconsciously trying to push the pain away. You are pushing your thoughts and feelings away, and you are subconsciously seeking relief.

There are many different types of grief, and you can experience all of them. But you don’t have to experience every type of grief. 

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and you don’t know where to turn, then it’s time to get help.

Let’s talk about the different types of grief and how to navigate through them.

Types of Grief

There are many different types of grief. We can all agree that there is nothing more devastating than this painful emotion known as grief. Most of us know what grief feels like, but that doesn’t mean we know how to navigate through the various types. I’ll give you a list of 12 types of grief, how they are different, and what to do about it.

While each individual is going to handle grief differently, most of them will eventually fall under one of the following categories.

1. Normal Type of Grief (aka Existential Grief)

Normal or existential grief is the most common type of grief and loss. The loss of a loved one is painful.  This includes losing a friend, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a child, or a pet.

This kind of loss is also a significant part of your life.  And it impacts your future and the reality of a loss of the future with this person or pet in your life.

Normally this type of grief is when someone does, but this type of grief is more inclusive.  It can be when someone you love is taken away from you, including the loss of a beloved family pet.

2. Death Type of Grief

We know death is a part of life, but everyone will agree that it is one of the most difficult events in our lives. It can become a defining moment in our lives where we personally come to terms with reality and the reality of death as part of our life that can not be overcome

Death can occur due to chronic or terminal illnesses.  But death grief also includes those we lose who die from a car accident, a tragic event or even in the act of war. Regardless of the circumstances, there is nothing more heartbreaking than losing someone close to you.

3. Self-Grievement Type of Grief

A lot of people are not aware of self-grievement.   But the truth be told, many people experience self-grievement at one point or another. It’s when we feel sad for ourselves.

It’s a time that you feel not only sad for yourself but you think perhaps something is wrong with you. It’s like we ‘lost’ some part of ourselves.  We can’t figure out why we are feeling this way.

Yes, it can be debilitating, painful, and confusing. How could this happen? You may find yourself asking ‘why am I so sad?’

Self-grief is a normal part of life. Just like you have good days and bad days, you have times you are happy and times you are sad.

4. Self-Blame Type of Grief

Self-blame is another type of grief that not many will be aware of but is quite common.  What type of grief is this?

It is when we blame ourselves for something bad that happened. This can lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and intense emotional pain.

When someone blames themselves for a mistake, they are suffering from self-blame grief.

We must accept that this grief is often caused by external factors. It may be caused by an argument or it could be caused by an argument with a loved one.

We can choose to live in peace.

In order to move forward, we must learn to let go of self-blame and make peace with ourselves.  The point is, you can choose to move on.

5. Anticipatory Type of Grief

If you’re anticipating the death of a loved one, this can lead to what is known as anticipatory grief.  This occurs quite frequently in the case of knowing that a loved one has a terminal illness, such as cancer.

The reason why anticipatory grief is so difficult is that even though we ‘know the inevitable outcome,’ the loss is often unexpected and hard to understand. The most common misconception is that anticipatory grief is a form of depression. 

Anticipatory grief has its own set of symptoms. Grief is a difficult thing to deal with, and it can often overlap with the different phases of the grieving process.

6. Complicated Type of Grief

Complicated grief is a recently recognized condition that occurs in about 7% of bereaved people.   It is also known as complex bereavement, or complicated bereavement syndrome is a condition of prolonged and unresolved grief following the loss of a loved one.

This type of grief can result in feelings of loss that are debilitating, long-lasting, and impacts your ability to engage in daily activities. 

People with this condition are caught up in rumination about the circumstances of the death.  They continue to worry about its consequences or excessive avoidance of reminders of the loss. Unable to comprehend the finality and consequences of the loss, they resort to excessive avoidance of reminders among their waves of intense emotion.

Although the concept of ‘Complicated Grief’ is well known and generally accepted, it’s not without those who believe that the resulting sadness and depression is taken to a more acute level.  They believe that for people who suffer from other mental disorders, handling complicated grief is more debilitating and in need of professional help for a healthy recovery and restoration of one’s well-being.

7. Cumulative Type of Grief

When someone experiences multiple losses in succession, he can become upset with life. This emotion is called cumulative grief.

Cumulative Grief occurs when an individual, experiences multiple losses either all at once or before processing an earlier loss. When you have experienced multiple losses within a short time period, you may begin to wonder how much more loss you can endure.

You can go through what is known as bereavement overload’.  There’s no timetable for how long someone can grieve a loss.  Furthermore, if someone never addresses the loss of a loved one, they walk around with suppressed emotions which left unchecked, can result in a future emotional crisis once it is released.

8. Distorted Type of Grief

Distorted grief is characterized by extreme, intense, or atypical reactions to a loss – odd changes in behavior and self-destructive actions. Anger and hostility towards oneself or others are common.

Distorted grief can affect someone’s life for years after a loss. You may have heard people say that “you have to let go to move on.

Although ambivalence is present in many types of grief, what distorted grief sets it apart from others is the level of intensity of the ambivalence felt.

Distorted grief is almost always much more difficult and challenging to overcome.

9. Exaggerated Type of Grief

Exaggerated grief, also known as persistent complex bereavement disorder, is a formal mental health diagnosis that encompasses grief-related symptoms that feel debilitating and last every day for at least six months post-loss. Exaggerated grief can be incredibly painful to experience.

What makes this type of grief so worrisome is the overwhelming intensification of normal grief reactions that may worsen over time.  It can include extreme exaggerated grief reactions which may include nightmares, self-destructive behaviors, drug abuse, thoughts of suicide, abnormal fears, and the development or emergence of psychiatric disorders.

People suffering from this type of loss most definitely need to be under the professional care of a psychiatrist.

10. Secondary Type of Grief

When a loss impacts many areas of one’s life, creating multiple losses stemming from the “primary loss”.  This type of secondary grief’  is also known as a ‘domino- effect when it involves subsequent losses.

Although it is easy to think our grief is solely the grief of losing the person who died, our grief is also the pain of the other losses caused as a result of this death.

In fact, one can argue that ‘secondary grief’ is associated with all types of grief.  The death of a loved one isn’t just one single earth-shattering loss. In reality, it’s a tremendous loss, followed by a lot of smaller losses in its aftermath. 

One can move on from experiencing this type of grief, but one must be patient and allow the necessary time to heal.

11. Traumatic Type of Grief

According to on the subject of traumatic grief, they report:

 “Traumatic grief is a relatively new term that combines trauma with bereavement or grief responses. It is provoked by the death of a significant other and includes symptoms similar to PTSD but specifically focused on the lost person, including intrusive, distressing preoccupation with the deceased, hypervigilant scanning of the environment for cues of the deceased, the wish to be reunited with the deceased, separation anxiety features, futility about the future, difficulty acknowledging the death, shattered world view, and anger together with impaired social functioning.”

The distress is so intense, it impairs your daily functioning.  It is vital that when one is suffering thru this type of grief, that griefer needs to seek professional help. In addition, they need to have the support of their family and close friends to help them for emotional support to get thru this difficult time.

12. Abbreviated or Absent Type of Grief

Abbreviated grief is when people don’t express grief at the loss of a loved one. It is a short-lived response to a loss. This could occur due to someone or something immediately filling the void, the distance that was felt, or the experience of anticipatory grief.

On the other hand, absent grief is when someone does not acknowledge the loss and shows no signs of grief. This can be the result of complete shock or denial of the death. It can be concerning if someone experiences absent grief for an extended period of time.

But here’s the thing… it’s important to never ‘assume’.  Why? Because… just because you can’t see the signs of grief, it doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is not grieving.  

Remember, grieving is a very personal emotional experience.

Grief Recovery and How to Find Peace

Most of us experience grief at some point in our lives. Some of us experience it more often than others. But when we do, we need to find a way to cope with it.

I think everyone will agree that grief is a normal part of life. It is a natural process of mourning and healing. When we are in a healthy state of mind, we are able to deal with grief.

When we are in a state of grief, we tend to be emotionally and physically drained. Sometimes we feel hopeless, and sometimes we feel numb. Grief can be confusing, overwhelming, and even paralyzing.

Elizabeth Postle, a healthcare professional states in her article published in, the following:

“Recovery from grief is perhaps a misnomer. We will never totally ‘recover’ from grief as that would mean forgetting our loved one and their place in our lives. What we do is learn to walk the pathways of grief, to live with it, to find meaning in life again and to find joy alongside the grief.”

If you’re going through a difficult time, I encourage you to seek out help. Not only reach out to your loved ones or a friend you can trust but also counseling if needed.

In researching for this blog, I also came across these wise words of guidance from author and grief researcher Joanne Cacciatore.  She  expresses it very well: 

“Grief cannot and should not, be fixed. . .  

Grief is not a medical disorder to be cured. 

Grief is not a spiritual crisis to be resolved. 

Grief is not a social woe to be addressed. 

Grief is, simply, a matter of the heart – to be felt.”

Joanne Cacciatore

Grief recovery may be difficult, but it is not impossible. It is about learning how to cope with your grief rather than suppressing it or hoping that it fades away. 

Per ‘, Here are 10 ways to cope with grief of the loss of a loved one

1. Acknowledge Your Grief

You will need to give yourself the permission to feel your loss and deal with your emotions and thoughts about the death of a loved one. Giving grief a place to be expressed through whatever means you feel the most comfortable is a significant step in your grief recovery process.

2. Understand What Your Unique Grief Process Looks Like

Every person has their own unique way of grieving, even if they are within the same family. It is critical to understand that no one else will have the same exact grief recovery process as you. 

3. Set Goals for Your Grief Process

It is essential to set goals for your grieving process once you have intentionally identified it and accepted it as something you will have to face. You may have goals to learn techniques to accept and let go of the emotions surrounding the death or to feel less isolated. 

4. Accept Support through Your Grief Process

There will be a time when you may want to be left alone, but accepting help and emotional support is a very healthy way to process your grief. Do not isolate yourself and be accepting of the assistance. Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or someone to help you make a meal, let others know how they can be there for you.

5. Be Realistic In Your Expectations through Your Grief Process

Make sure you have a realistic perspective and expectation about your grief recovery process. It may take you longer and may be much more difficult than you anticipated, so be open to this journey with a proper outlook on what is representative of your grief. 

6. Care for Yourself through the Grief Process

Looking after yourself is vital in the grief recovery process. As tempting as it may be, do not let others’ needs minimize your grief recovery. Your physical health can determine how you cope emotionally, and mentally. So, stay hydrated, eat proper meals, and exercise as you used to, and try to keep a consistent and regular sleep schedule. Lastly, stay off any drugs or alcohol that you may feel can numb your pain. 

7. Stay Active during the Grief Process

Be open to creating new habits and trying new activities. Whether that is creating memory books or journaling; stay active and be creative in your grieving process so you can tangibly express your feelings. 

8. Do What You Love

During your grief recovery process, you may not want to do anything that can remind you of your loved one. However, maintaining your hobbies and interests is very important in bringing you comfort to help you come to terms with your loss. 

9. Cherish Memories during Your Grief Process

It may be painful to revisit memories of your loved one, but a healthy way to process your grief is to cherish the beautiful memories you had with them. 

10. Seeking Professional Help for Your Grief Process

The pain of the loss of a loved one may sometimes be so overbearing that professional assistance should be requested. The grief recovery process can be worked through with an experienced grief counselor who can teach you how to overcome obstacles in your grieving. They can refer you to support groups or help you work through intense emotions with one-on-one sessions.

Powerful Grief Quotes

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

Edna St. Vincent Millay


“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”

Vicki Harrison


“Sometimes, only one person is missing, and the whole world seems depopulated.”

Alphonse de Lamartine, Méditations Poétiques


“Believe me, every heart has its secret sorrows, which the world knows not, and oftentimes we call a man cold, when he is only sad.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Hyperion


“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

Washington Irving


“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief – But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.”

Hilary Stanton Zunin


“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

Helen Keller


“Nothing will ever take away our memories. May your memories be ones that give you comfort and reminders of happier times.”

Catherine Pulsifer


“Although it’s difficult today to see beyond the sorrow,

May the blessings of love be upon you,

May its peace abide with you,

May its essence illuminate your heart,

Now and forever more.”

A Blessing of Peace


“May God be with you and give you comfort. May He wrap His arms around you and give you peace and hope. May He fill you with strength, and may you feel His love.”

Catherine Pulsifer


Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”

Written on a Headstone in Ireland


“Sympathy extended to another is the expression of the human heart demonstrating that love is true and wholesome.”

Byron R. Pulsifer


“No rule book. No time frame. No judgment. Grief is as individual as a fingerprint. Do what is right for your soul.” –



“Grief changes us the pain sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply hurts more often appreciates more quickly cries more easily hopes more desperately loves more openly.”



In Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand grief and bereavement. Although the symptoms of grief may seem to be universal, the experience is as individual as each person’s story. 

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find healing.  

Just do know this…  although the emotional pain can be lessened, the memories shall always be with you.  From this, seek out your personal healing of peace and well-being.

My blessings to all of you. (Comments are most welcome.)

For further reading, check out these related blogs:

“40 Quotes to Relieve Your Emotional Pain”

“Beyond Sadness – Helping Your Friends Smile Again”

Navigating Thru 12 Types of Grief - How to Find Peace After Grief

About the author

beth elkassih

“Hi! Welcome to the launching and introduction to ‘Made You Smile Back’! I’m so pleased you’re here. Let me share with you a little bit about myself and why I created this platform.”

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