Types of Grief & Loss
- Anticipatory mourning describes the process of grieving, adapting, and coping that a
person engages in when a loved one is reaching the end of life.
- Grief may be particularly traumatic following a sudden, unexpected death when a person’s normal
coping mechanisms are overtaxed by the tragedy.
- Complicated grief, which often necessitates the help of a mental health professional, is prolonged,
intense grief that interferes with a person’s ability to function over time.
Learn what you can do to support a grieving friend or family member
When a person or family is expecting death, it is normal to begin to anticipate how one will react and cope when that person eventually dies. Many
family members will try to envision their life without that person and mentally play out possible scenarios, which may include grief reactions
and ways they will mourn and adjust after the death.
Anticipatory mourning includes feelings of loss, concern for the dying person, balancing conflicting demands, and preparing for death. Anticipatory
mourning is a natural process that enables the family more time to prepare for the reality of the loss. People are often able to complete unfinished
“business” with the dying person (for example, saying “good-bye,” “I love you,” or “I forgive you”).
Sudden, unexpected loss may exceed the coping abilities of a person, which often results in feelings of being overwhelmed or unable to function.
Even though one may be able to acknowledge that loss has occurred, the full impact of the loss may take much longer to fully comprehend than in
the case of an expected loss.
Grief doesn’t always progress as expected. In some cases, the intensity and duration of grief dramatically interferes with a person’s ability to
function. Symptoms of depression and anxiety may be prevalent. Thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and reactions may persist over long periods of time
with little change or improvement. Complicated grief doesn’t subside on its own — it’s important to seek help from a qualified professional who
can assess the situation and recommend a course of action.
You can support a grieving friend or family member in a number of ways.
Content shown was developed through a collaboration between AGIS and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.