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The Different Ways We Grieve

Each person grieves in very different and individual ways. Some have compared grief to snowflakes or fingerprints; each person’s grief is both personal and unique.

Grief can be a highly emotional experience; you may feel many, even contradictory, emotions such as anger, guilt, loneliness, sadness, or pining for the person who died.  Your expression of grief may mirror these inner feelings, through crying, rage, or withdrawal, and many people find it helpful to express and explore these emotions.

Others may grieve with less intense emotions. You or someone you love may express grief in a more cognitive way, thinking about the person often. These types of grievers may find it helpful to be active in projects such as managing a scholarship fund to honor the person who has died. These different ways or patterns of grief are just that; they are different. No pattern is better or worse. They are simply expressions of the fact that each person copes with loss in a personal way.

This can become problematic when there is a failure to acknowledge that people handle loss differently, even in the same family. Differences in grieving styles are simply that; they do not represent differences in the love for the person who has died. Different grieving styles do not need to be a source of conflict. In fact, complementary ways of coping can be a source of strength.

Developed from Journeys with Grief: A Collection of Articles about Love, Life and Loss, edited by Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D., MDiv., copyright Hospice Foundation of America, 2012.