Losing A Loved One: Types Of Abnormal Grief

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Sometimes, the normal mourning process can turn into complicated or abnormal grief for lots of reasons.

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Losing a loved one is one of the most distressing and, unfortunate event that all people has to face in their entire lifespan once in a while. Grief is the powerful and uncontrollable response for most people experiencing normal grief.

Bereavement has a journey of denial, sorrow, numbness, and even guilt and anger. Gradually over time, these feelings ease, and it’s possible to accept the loss and move forward.

Abnormal Grief

For some people, this feeling of loss doesn’t improve even after time passes for a number of reasons. These can include the circumstances of the death, the person’s history of grieving experiences, and the personality of the bereaved, and the availability of support. This is known as complicated or abnormal grief, sometimes it is also called persistent complex bereavement disorder.

5 stage of grief
5 Stages of Grief

Types of Abnormal Grief

In order to identify it, we can categorize complicated grieving reactions into four types.

Chronic grief reactions

It can become chronic in cases where the bereaved no longer believes they have an identity without the deceased. They feel that they cannot function alone. It is one of the most common forms of abnormal grief and typically affects people who have lost their long-time partner.

Delayed grief

This type can occur unexpectedly sometime after the death of the loved one. The bereaved appears to function well immediately after the death but is really delaying the grieving process due to other life stressors, including supporting others and arranging funerals. It occurs at a later date in response to another loss or as a reminder of the loss

Exaggerated grief

It occurs, where the bereaved person is so overwhelmed by the death of their loved one, that they develop major psychiatric disorders such as

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Anxiety, including PTSD
  • Significant sleep disturbances
  • Increased risk of physical illness, such as heart disease, or high blood pressure
  • Long-term difficulty with daily living, relationships, or work activities
  • Alcohol, nicotine use, or substance misuse

Masked grief reactions

When the bereaved experiences physical symptoms that do not at first appear to be related to the loss, it can be a masked grief reaction. This type is thought to occurs when normal grief cannot be openly expressed because of cultural or societal factors.

How to deal with it


Talking about your grief instead of hiding it, allowing yourself to cry can help prevent you from getting stuck in your sadness. It can be hard and painful but you should trust that in most cases, your pain will start to lift if you allow yourself to feel it.

Bereavement counseling

Through early counseling after a loss, you can explore the emotions surrounding your loss and learn healthy coping skills. This may help prevent negative thoughts and beliefs from gaining such a stronghold that they’re difficult to overcome.

Facing immense stress in your life- Then try talking to our therapists for stress management at your convenience


Family members, friends, social support groups, and your faith community are the best options that can help you work through your grief.

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Dr. Ankit Gaur

Dr. Ankit Gaur is a Counsellor and Family Therapist. He is an experienced healthcare professional holding two post-graduate degrees (MSc in Counselling and Family Therapy, and PharmD}. His area of specialization lies in the field of counselling and family therapy covering all types of patients from different age groups such as pediatric, geriatric, adolescents, adults, and marital couples.

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