Over the years, the idea of grief and loss has expanded significantly to include areas of grief that were not commonly considered. Whilst bereavement and death appear to be the widely understood grief inducing events, we are now familiar with anticipatory grief, disenfranchised grief, and traumatic grief, amongst many others.
Anticipatory grief can be identified in events where there is an expected and unstoppable loss, such as a loved one having an incurable illness. This form of grief can be all-consuming but much easier to be understood by others as we have all experienced it in some way. A student who knows they have done poorly in an exam will experience anticipatory grief, and so will a worker who stuffed up his chances of getting that promotion due to ill behaviour at work. It can also be seen amongst people going to a protest which is expected to transform into a riot with loss of business, housing, and lives.
Disenfranchised grief is a little more complicated. It is the type of grief that is not commonly acknowledged or seen as an event to grieve about. For example, climate change is not an event that all people take seriously, but, the more passionate ones grieve the loss of plant life, sea life, and more. This feeling of not being understood to grieve, or not being acknowledged for the loss, is known as disenfranchised grief. It can also be seen in teenagers going through a breakup for the first time and are told to get over it because they have their whole lives ahead of them to fall in love. When we are not allowed to grieve, our grief becomes disenfranchised.
Traumatic grief is even more complicated. This is where grief and trauma have overlapped and cannot be separated. Sometimes trauma blocks the person’s ability to grief because it triggers survival mode. traumatic grief can last a lifetime before a person is able to process the event. It can be seen in survivors of child abuse, people who suddenly lost their children to a car accident, a person who was raped and lost their virginity, or a person who committed a serious crime someone whilst drug-affected.
Grief and loss are a significant part of our lives. The above three types of grief are just a few amongst an array of events we all face. Whilst some researchers claim there are stages to grief, a new way of thinking sees grief as becoming a part of our lives rather than something to overcome. It can be seen as a wave that washes over us time to time whilst we continue to move through our lives.
Supporting someone through grief is no longer limited to death or loss of a loved one. The only way can support each other is to understand this simple fact that we are all experiencing some form of grief at all times. Even now, during the time of coronavirus, we are grieving our old way of being, we are grieving the potential loss of our loved ones, we are grieving stability as we knew it, and we are grieving not having strong and consistent leadership.
Grief binds us together. It is our common denominator.