What is Silent Grief?

Amy Barczy

| 3 min read

Amy Barczy is a former brand journalist who authored...

Society lends a certain level of respect and understanding to people when they lose someone close to them: like a partner, child, extended family member, partner or a close friend. 
Yet these are not the only losses that lead to grief in our lives.
It may be loss from a miscarriage. Loss during a divorce. Loss from a suicide, mental illness or substance use disorder. Loss of a home. Loss of a job. Loss of a pet.
Many times, people experiencing these types of losses find that those around them don’t acknowledge these forms of grief. The loss may carry stigma, such as is the case with losses from miscarriage, substance use disorder and mental illness. Or the loss may not be considered valid by others. 
These types of disenfranchised losses often lead to “silent grief” – when the person in mourning deliberately suppresses or controls their emotions after a loss. This can mean they process their emotions privately – leading to an internal struggle over how to express their true feelings while meeting societal expectations. While people may attempt to conceal their grief in order to try and avoid potential judgement from others, it can deeply affect an individual’s ability to process and regulate their emotions. 

The process of grief

Grief is a valid response to any loss. Grieving often involves a range of emotions, expressions, and actions that a person experiences – and grief looks different for everyone. 
Working through grief over a loss often takes time. Talking about your emotions is an important part of regulating and processing feelings. People who experience disenfranchised or marginalized losses may keep their feelings to themselves, as they fear the response from others in their lives. This can delay the grieving process.
Supporting people through grief – no matter what the type of loss – takes an open ear. Instead of trying to come up with the right thing to say, help the person who is grieving by listening to them. Small gestures can also make a big difference, like a card, delivering flowers or a meal, or offering to do a chore like the laundry or grocery shopping. Showing the grieving person you care can validate their experience, and help them feel comfort during a difficult time.

Grief differs by age

Grief impacts children, teenagers, young adults, middle-aged adults and older adults differently. For individuals seeking to help friends or loved ones through the grieving process, it’s important to understand the approach you might use with an older adult may not have the same effectiveness when used with a teenager.

Find help 

Grief can be an isolating and lonely process, especially if an individual is processing a loss that is stigmatized or not widely accepted by others in their lives.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below: 

PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382 

  • A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7. 

HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982 

  • Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider. 
  • Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association