Understanding Types of Grief and How to Cope

Shandra Martinez

| 4 min read

Grief is a process we go through to cope with a real or perceived loss, including death, loss of a relationship, job or home, decline in health or inability to reach a goal. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.

Types of grief

According to WebMD, the most common types of grief are:
Anticipatory. This occurs when you are expecting a loss, such as after a terminal illness diagnosis.
Abbreviated. This type of grief is short-lived and occurs when someone moves through the grief process quickly.
Delayed. This can occur weeks, months or even years after the event occurs.
Cumulative. This type of grief results in multiple losses occurring in the same time frame.
Complicated. Long-lasting grief where a person is not moving through the stages of grief.
Collective. Occurs after a widespread tragedy, such as a natural disaster or a public event.
Traumatic. Grieving with the added experience of shared trauma, such as a car crash or a shooting.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of all the types of grief, says Julia Kyle, Director of Behavioral Health Strategy and Planning at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
“There's also people that just feel this apathy, this emptiness, this almost absence of symptoms. So that's kind of confusing for people,” Kyle says.

The stages of grief

There are many stages of grief, according to the Kübler-Ross model, developed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The Swiss American psychiatrist wrote the 1969 groundbreaking book on the psychology behind grieving, “On Death and Dying.”
The stages of grief are fluid and don’t follow a strict pathway for everyone. Grief can manifest in various ways, and coping strategies can differ depending on the individual and their circumstances. The stages can include:
Shock and denial. This can be the first response to loss. Denial is a common defense mechanism. Initial paralysis at hearing the bad news or not wanting to think about the implications of the loss.
Pain and guilt. This can result in emotional pain, blame and regret.
Anger and bargaining. A frustrated outpouring of bottled-up emotion, fear and anxiety can lead to trying to find a way out.
Depression. There’s a realization of the inevitable, creating feelings of loneliness and sadness.
Upward turn. Beginning to adjust to life after the loss.
Testing and reconstruction. Seeking realistic solutions and paths to move forward.
Acceptance and hope. Finally finding the way forward.

Symptoms of grief

The response to grief is often emotional, but can also have physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions. Common symptoms of grief include:
Physical symptoms
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive issues
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia
Emotional symptoms
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Yearning
  • Apathy
  • Anger
Behavior symptoms
  • Lack of focus
  • Confusion
  • Slower thought process
  • Can’t concentrate

Coping with grief

Coping strategies for grief often include talking openly about your feelings, seeking professional help if needed, practicing self-care, maintaining routines and allowing yourself to grieve in your unique way.
It's essential to remember that everyone's grief journey is personal, and what works best can vary from person to person.
Experiencing grief after loss is a natural response. If you need support, consider speaking with a mental health professional who can help you with the healing process. The following resources are available to help:
988 – National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988 to speak with a mental health professional.
838255 – Veterans Crisis Lifeline: Veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members and those who support them can call or text this number to talk to a mental health professional.
Talk to your primary care provider about your grief and their recommendations for mental health care.
Blue Cross behavioral health support: Blue Cross members can call the Mental Health number on the back of their Blue Cross member ID cards for assistance and additional resources.
Blue Cross’ behavioral health website: Go to www.bcbsm.com/mentalhealth. You’ll find free educational resources, traditional and virtual health services, webinars, resiliency and mindfulness tools and tips on how to address stress and support your mental health.
Learn more in this Blue Cross Virtual Well-Being℠ webinar, Julia Kyle Explains the Types of Grief and How to Cope. You can also sign up for future employer-focused and individual well-being webinars and meditations here, where you’ll also find past webinars and meditations on demand.
Photo credit: Getty Images
MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association