Types of grief

The most common types of childhood grief

Grief is experienced as an emotion or feeling caused by loss. This loss can be the death of someone close, the loss of something or someone held dear and a variety of other significant events or circumstances.  Every person grieves in their own unique way. Children’s grief responses need to be looked at in the context of their age, stage of cognitive and emotional development, personality type and prior experiences with loss and death. It will also be important to consider what support they have available, their culture and how their family responds to loss.

The most common types of grief experienced by children will include the following:

  • Anticipatory grief which refers to a feeling of grief occurring before an impending loss.
  • Complicated grief which refers to the increase of grief to the level where the person is:
    • overwhelmed
    • resorts to uncharacteristic behaviour
    • or remains in the state of grief without progression of the usual mourning process.
  • Delayed grief is grief that is temporarily “shelved” or denied until something triggers a need to focus on it. Due to the fact that the grieving did not take place at the time or shortly after the death or diagnosis, the extent of the delayed feelings might be frightening, and the causes of these feelings might not be immediately recognised because they occur sometime after the loss.

Are there more types of grief?

Flip to see the answer!

YES! There a many different types of grief.

Click here if you are keen to read more about these and several other types of grief from the What’s Your Grief? website. These include masked grief, disenfranchised grief, inhibited grief, traumatic grief, abbreviated grief, exaggerated grief, collective grief and others.

Explaining the grief experience

The diagram below is a representation of what the grief experience might look like from the time a patient has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness such as cancer. Loss and anticipatory grief will start at the time of diagnosis and if the patient dies, grief will continue into the bereavement period for the family. The way each person will grieve is an individual matter and can be influenced by many factors. The responses and reactions mentioned are experienced throughout the course of the illness for both the patient and the family. Should the patient die, the family will continue to grieve into the period following the death.

Drag the arrow to the right to see the full picture. 

How much do you recall?

We’ve thrown so many definitions and explanations your way, you may be feeling a little dizzy! How much do you remember?

Here’s a quick test to help fix these in your mind before moving on. Jot your answers to each of the following questions in your notebook then click on each question to see if you were correct.

No cheating!