Types Of Grief: It’s Not Always Related To Death

types of grief its not always related to death

During one of our grief support groups the other day, a member shared that the first grief she ever experienced was when her family sold their green VW bus. She was five years old at the time, and when the family left the van at the car lot, she was beside herself with grief. She cried and cried, and her parents didn’t understand why.  

From her perspective, it was the only car she knew, and she remembers feeling like they were abandoning a member of their household without giving it a proper goodbye. She’s wanted to buy a green VW ever since. While the group nodded and smiled as she shared, we were also grateful to have a chance to share some of “The Other Types of Grief” we have experienced in our own lives. 

Grief Beyond Death: 5 Examples Of Experiences Worth Grieving 

In a culture that struggles to honor the significant and painful grief associated with the death loss of a loved one, it can feel like it’s not even “worth it” to mention the other things we grieve for. Or, as is the case for many, we may not even realize that our intense emotions around an experience or memory are actually rooted in grief. 

Read 5 Signs You May Need Grief Support, and you might be surprised to learn your body and spirit are asking you for a chance to express grief in a safe and supportive space. 

8 Types Of Grief  

To be honest, we’d say there are as many types of grief as there are experiences that cause you to grieve. However, to simplify, we’ve broken that endless list into eight major categories. 

Normal grief

Ha! This one is a myth. There is no such thing as normal grief because everyone experiences grief differently. Yes, there are commonalities in the “symptoms of grief” (sadness, insomnia, lack of appetite, depression, anger, numbness, overeating, sleeping all day, lack of will to live, etc.), but everyone processes grief in their own way. 

For some, working with a group is helpful because you don’t feel so alone. Others prefer to work one-on-one with a grief support expert because their grief is a private experience. What is grieved in a week or two for one may take years for another, depending on what the particular loss means to them.  

The only “normal” thing about grief is that we all experience it. Grief is always associated with the loss or surrender of something, and it always needs to be addressed for us to begin a healing process as we learn to move forward in a new way.  

Anticipatory grief

Anticipatory grief is the grief you feel when you know a loss is coming or you are experiencing a loss, but the full impact of the loss hasn’t happened yet.  

It is very common for anyone who has a terminal diagnosis or who has a loved one with a terminal diagnosis. For example, spouses and children of adults with dementia experience powerful anticipatory grief as they watch their loved one’s memory and life spirit ebb away. You may also experience anticipatory grief as you put a much-loved home on the market or as you make the decision to put down an animal companion. 

Complicated grief

When people are so deep in their grief that they cannot function in daily life, we say they have complicated grief. Someone experiencing complicated grief may avoid anything and everything that reminds them of their loss and may also cause them to have irrational thoughts. Sometimes, in addition to the support of a licensed grief therapist, individuals experiencing complicated grief need medication such as an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety med to begin processing their grief. 

Disenfranchised grief

This is one of the most widespread “epidemics” in the grief realm. As we mentioned in the intro, our culture struggles to help each other process grief associated with huge losses.  

We live in a “Five Days of Bereavement” society where people often say things like, “It’s been two months, aren’t you over that yet?” to a friend, co-worker, or family member who is still mourning the loss of a loved one. Therefore, imagine what it’s like when you are wracked with grief over the loss of a pet, a divorce, the sale of a home you loved, or the forced sale of a car (as was the case for the little 5-year-old who was deeply saddened at the loss of the family’s VW bus). Talk about lack of meaningful support.  

Likewise, disenfranchised grief is experienced when an ancient backyard tree comes crashing down in the storm, when an accident or illness leads to the loss of limb or mobility, or when you acknowledge the dreams you never got to bring to fruition, and so on.  

Inhibited grief

This is the griever who stuffs their grief so deep inside that s/he goes about normal life as if nothing has happened at all. Inhibited grievers are frequently judged by family members or friends because they appear cold or unaffected by their loss. Many workaholics are actually inhibited grievers who learned the art of perpetual busyness to avoid painful emotions. 

Over time, inhibited grievers are prone to headaches and migraines, nausea, unidentified anxiety, and digestive ailments. They can become so physically or emotionally exhausted that they get seriously ill, develop cancer or other chronic illnesses, or hit rock-bottom when their inhibited emotions lead to divorce, compromised relationships with children, or a nervous breakdown. 

Absent grief

Similar to complicated grief, absent grief is a sage of complete denial. You simply don’t accept that what happened actually happened or that the person who died is actually dead.  

People experiencing absent grief are themselves in every other way but can seem absolutely insane (and frustrating!) to those who know them in the moments when the absent griever consistently refuses to acknowledge the death of their spouse or child. They may even pretend the person is still alive. Absent grief can happen to anyone but is most common for those who experienced a sudden and shocking loss. 

Exaggerated grief

Exaggerated grief is similar to complicated grief. However, there are no irrational thoughts or seemingly unreasonable behaviors expressed by the griever with exaggerated grief. Instead, someone in the midst of exaggerated grief experiences overwhelming sorrow and cannot rise out of it.  

Those who experience exaggerated grief often suffer more than one significant loss in a short amount of time. If they don’t get the support they need, exaggerated grievers are at high risk of becoming chronically depressed.  

Delayed grief

Like disenfranchised grief, this one can be surprising to family and friends. Delayed grief is common for someone who began the grief journey in the absent or inhibited grief experience. When they “wake up,” or their repressed feelings become impossible to ignore, they experience delayed grief.  

All of the emotions they’ve stuffed, ignored, or denied for so long come raring up as if the loss just happened yesterday. Delayed grief is also a common response for those who have experienced a series of losses in a row. Perhaps they were “grieving well” for loss one or two, but then successive deaths or events made it impossible to continue, so they had to go into denial. It can be beneficial for delayed grievers to do something physical to honor the grief they’ve repressed. Examples include planting a tree they can visit or dedicating a stone, bench, or some other memorial that connects them to the one they lost.  

Like exaggerated grief, delayed grief is also more common for anyone who has suffered multiple losses in close succession or is in the midst of an immediate life change when a significant loss occurs. For example, if you are in the midst of a divorce when a parent or friend dies, you may have to remain in survival mode to take care of your children and yourself through the divorce, and you aren’t able to grieve until you are more settled and have time to “come back down” into yourself again.  

The key to working with the different types of grief is to recognize you are grieving. Once that happens, there are many resources out there for you, from live support groups and therapists to books and online grief support and grief ritual processes.  

Hospice of the Golden Isles is here to support you in whatever type of grief you are experiencing. Contact us to learn more about our grief support offerings. 912-265-4735.

New Members Named for Hospice of the Golden Isles Board of Directors

September 13, 2021 (Brunswick, Ga.) – The Very Reverend Tom Purdy, Chair of the Board of Hospice of the Golden Isles, announces the election of six new members to its Board of Directors. They join a group of community leaders who have guided the quality hospice and community services provided by the local non-profit organization.

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When Is It Time For Hospice?

when is it time for hospice

We can’t tell you how many times our nurses, social workers, or volunteers have heard the words, “We wish we would have called hospice sooner. It has made our lives so much better.” When you’re facing a terminal or end-of-life prognosis, you and your family deserve all the support you can get. The hospice model of care is incomparable when it comes to providing that network.  

Many people mistakenly believe that signing up for hospice means that death is imminent, and they aren’t “willing to give up yet.” In fact, hospice provides comfort and support at every level – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – for patients and their families  Remarkable Fact: Contrary to popular belief, signing up for hospice actually improves life expectancy for many patients. Based on findings from a large cohort of retrospective studies, “Receiving at least one day of hospice care may increase life expectancy by up to three months.”   But, of course, we hope that anyone facing a terminal illness would benefit from far more than a single day of our care. Whether you choose hospice care or palliative care options (more on those below), we sincerely hope you find the care you deserve as you and your family navigate this next powerful chapter in your journey. 

Signs It’s Time For Hospice Care (The Clinical) 

Your hospice team wants to be there for you as early as possible so you can reap the benefits of our services and improve your quality of life for the weeks, months, or – sometimes – years you have left.   In our post, What is Hospice Care, we outline qualifying factors as well as the three foundational tenets of hospice care. Ultimately, there are only two qualifying factors for a patient to be admitted to hospice care. Those are: 
  • Diagnosis of life-limiting condition with a prognosis of six months or less if the disease runs its ordinary course (or an acute medical scenario such as heart attack or stroke that has put death on the immediate horizon) 
  • Failure to improve despite current treatment regime OR the patient wishes to cease curative treatments because they are diminishing their quality of life 
Other signs that it may be time to speak with a hospice agency are when a patient experiences: 
  • More frequent hospital stays or ER/Urgent Care admissions 
  • Continuing weight loss (not including edema weight) 
  • Inability to complete daily tasks independently (bathing, dressing, getting to the bathroom safely, meal preparation, etc.) 
  • An increase in lack of balance, falls, or near misses 
  • Changes in cognitive ability (memory loss) 
  • Breakdowns in skin tissue such as more frequent tears, bedsores, or inexplicable bruising/swelling 
Any of these are well worth a call to your local hospice care agencies to begin discussing your options. Read Tips on Choosing a Hospice Care Provider to learn more about what to ask and look for when contacting prospective hospice providers. 

Signs You Should Call Hospice (The Heart of the Matter) 

While all of those clinical signs listed above are important, we believe that the patient and family’s mental and emotional wellbeing is every bit as important (if not more so) as the physical.   For that reason, we believe patients and families should contact hospice care providers soon after receiving any terminal diagnosis. When it’s time for hospice, calling and speaking with hospice about the services we provide does not mean you have to sign up; it simply means you are becoming informed of your options.   Some of the heart-felt signs you should learn more about hospice include: 
  • You’re faced with a terminal diagnosis and aren’t sure what to do 
  • You are tired of feeling sick and tired from continuous treatment attempts and want to learn more about your options 
  • You are facing a terminal diagnosis and are afraid of death, questioning your faith, worried about your family’s emotional wellbeing, etc. 
  • The physical discomfort associated with your illness/condition/disease is so great it’s diminishing your quality of life 
  • You have a feeling you should call hospice 
  • You prefer to die in a hospice house or at home rather than in a hospital 
Contrary to popular belief, signing up for hospice is not giving up, surrendering yourself to death, or excluding the possibility of miracles. It is simply a way to provide a network of support and comfort as you take time to make important decisions that honor your best intentions and wishes.  

Palliative Care May Be Your Happy Medium 

If you don’t think it’s time for hospice care and are hesitant to sign up, we recommend speaking to a care provider who offers both palliative care and hospice care services.  You can learn more about the differences in our post, Palliative Care and Hospice Care. While both are dedicated to providing physical and emotional comfort to patients and their families, palliative care can be provided as a patient currently participates in curative treatments, while hospice care is offered when a patient decides to no longer pursue curative treatments or life-saving measures.  If you are exhausted by the physical and emotional pain of treatments or frequent hospital admissions but aren’t completely willing to cease treatment, it may be that palliative care is your preferred option. However, unlike hospice, which is entirely free and paid for by Medicare, palliative care options may require out-of-pocket payment depending on the terms of your health insurance policy.   Would you like to learn more about how our network of hospice physicians, nurses, social workers, volunteers, spiritual and emotional counselors can support you and your family? Contact Hospice of the Golden Isles. We are here to serve as compassionate guides for patients and families facing serious advanced illnesses. Your comfort and peace of mind are our highest priority, and our amazing team looks forward to improving your quality of life in any way we can. 

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Hospice of The Golden Isles Memory Brick wall

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How To Become A Hospice Nurse

how to become a hospice nurse  

We have yet to meet a hospice nurse, physician, social worker, staff, or volunteer that doesn’t feel our work is “a calling.” The fragile, respectful, and complicated realms of dying, death, and grief require unique skill sets and gifts. Those who want to work in this field have a special relationship with life and death, seeing them as part of the same and connected whole.  

This is all to say that while there is a logistical and linear path to becoming a hospice nurse, odds are your journey is one of the heart and soul.  

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16th Annual R.E. Thomas Memorial Benefit

16th Annual R.E. Thomas Memorial Benefit
Join Johnny and Joyce Thomas and their extended family and friends for the annual R.E. Thomas Benefit for HGI.

Join Johnny and Joyce Thomas and their extended family and friends for the annual R.E. Thomas Benefit for Hospice of The Golden Isles

Enjoy a delicious prime rib and shrimp dinner catered by Mudcat Charlie’s, live entertainment from local talent and most of all the palpable fellowship buzzing through the Shrine Club.

To Register, call Johnny Thomas at (912) 269-5001

Event will be held at the Brunswick Shrine Club, Saturday, August 28, 2021! Tickets are $60/person • Doors open at 6:30pm • Dinner at 7pm • BYOB

Home Hospice Care: What To Expect

home hospice care what to expect

Bringing hospice care into the home improves the quality of life for patients and their families. Once you’ve started home hospice care, you have access to an incredible network of support that goes far beyond the realms of clinical and comfort care. 

If you’re new to the idea of hospice, read our post What is Hospice Care for a general overview of the services we provide.

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Paula Di Landro Executive Director Hospice of the Golden Isles

Hospice of the Golden Isles Welcomes New Executive Director

June 17, 2021 (Brunswick, Ga.) – Hospice of the Golden Isles welcomes new Executive Director Paula Di Landro, MS, LMHC, CCM. Paula received a bachelor’s degree in economics/management science, a master’s in human services and has been a Brunswick resident since January of 2020. She is a certified case manager (CCM), a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), and is a current member of the Georgia Hospice and Palliative Care Association (GHPCA) and Suncoast Mental Health Counselors Association (SMHCA).

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Palliative Care And Hospice Care

palliative care and hospice care  

As hospice care providers we often see or hear the terms palliative care and hospice care used interchangeably even though they are not exactly the same thing.  

While these two services do share things in common, there are distinct differences. Knowing and understanding what each healthcare service offers helps you to make the most informed healthcare decisions for yourself or a loved one.

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912.265.4735 | toll-free at 866.275.6801
1692 Glynco Parkway | Brunswick, GA 31525
501(c)(3) non-profit organization | License #GA063007H
Privacy Policy 
Copyright ©2020 Hospice of the Golden Isles.
All rights reserved.

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