Grief is unique and reactions to grief and loss differ from person to person. Knowing family and friends is important in understanding how they grieve and react to loss. If we understand grieving patterns of family then we can better accompany them through grief and know when the time is to say or not say something. Due to the subjective reactions to loss, many multiple reactions can occur and no one can ever be completely sure of how someone will react. Still, there are certain ways the human species reacts to loss to give some blue print or guidance.
We are all familiar with the stages of grief, the reactions and phases one go through. We also know to limit grief to mere stages that go in order is wrong, but instead, grief while having various emotional reactions can have a unpredictable set of reactions in any order. Individuals experience grief in waves, oscillations, and in steps forward and steps back. The common emotions of numbness, sadness, anger, guilt and denial are the primary ones we see in the grieving but how these emotions are expressed differ from person to person.
Some individuals are extroverts, while others are introverts. An introvert will seek solace and quiet to dwell on the grief, to find the inner healing needed. Unfortunately, sometimes extreme introverts can seek to escape other human companionship and fall into isolation. Extroverts on the other hand cope and deal with grief through finding healing and energy from without themselves and seek counsel and discussion with others. This can be healthy but if without any inner balance can be fruitless in finally healing oneself. Balance is key. Avoidance of extremities in either introvert or extrovert behavior is important for ultimate healing.
Grieving styles still can differ in the way the individual thinks, acts, or feels. Some individuals are more cognitive, others more emotional and others more pragmatic. Sometimes how one reacts to grief is totally stereotypical and gender assigned. For example, saying only women will reactive emotionally is a blanket statement that is not true. Many men may be emotional as well, while other women may be very pragmatic in their grief reaction. It is important in grief counseling not to type cast a griever but to sojourn with the bereaved and see how their unique reaction grief surfaces and how they cope.
Cognitive grievers think through grief. This can be good and bad. Again balance is key. Cognitive individuals can cope better via reframing negative situations into positive ones, as well as look for cognitive answers through media and books to find solutions. They may also be more clear in their thinking during a loss. These benefits can be counter balanced though with individuals who express pain through pessimism or obsessive compulsive behaviors. Some may also become argumentative in their expression of grief or even suppress emotion.
Emotional grievers utilize emotion as the primary coping mechanism. In healthy fashion, they release sadness or anger and feel better. Releasing emotion is key in coping but also releasing negative stress from harming the body. However, on the flip side of the coin, emotional grievers can also become too depressed or sad and cease to be able to function. They may also unable to cognitively understand the process of grief itself.
Pragmatic grievers or those who feel the need and call to act also have benefits and disadvantages. Those who are more pragmatic look to actions that can resolve situations. They can also utilize hobbies and work to help them go through the grief itself. They can also more easily utilize exercise to release negative emotions. However, hobbies and busy work help one but also emotionally harm by ignoring the loss and trying to hide from it. Many of them avoid talking about their grief and can become angry at those who wish to discuss the loss.
What one can see from these types of grief styles is that one there is good and bad that can come from each style but a better solution is a more balanced reaction to loss that allows one to think, feel and act as necessary. Again, we cannot impose certain standards on others, but if coping over a loss is becoming pathological, then one may seek to question one’s particular grief style.
Ultimately it is key for families going through grief to understand each other’s grieving styles and to be there for each other the best way they know how. In doing so, individuals can better heal at their own way and own pace without emotional damage.
If you would like to learn more about AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Program then please review it and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a grief counselor.
Sources and Other Reading
The Unwanted Gift of Grief: A Ministry Approach by Tim P. VanDuivendyk