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6 Types of Grief We Don't Talk About

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Each year, we recognize Grief Awareness Day on August 30. Grief is most commonly associated with the death of a loved one, and there is no doubt this type of grief is absolutely devastating. But what about the “less common” types of grief? The grief that goes unsaid or unacknowledged?

Here are six types of grief we don’t talk about. Although they are all different than losing a loved one, they are all valid types of grief all the same.

1. Grieving a former version of another person.

Picture this: a person you have known for years is standing in front of you. They sound the same and they look the same, but something is different. There is something that has changed about this person, or at least your perception of them. Maybe you can put your finger on it, but maybe you can’t.

Maybe their personality has changed. Maybe your relationship with this person has changed. Maybe you learned something new about this person that has changed your perception of them and the way you view them.

Regardless of the cause, when someone close to us changes in one way or another, we often feel grief for the former version of this person. It can feel as though we lost someone, even if they are standing right in front of us. Sometimes we can adapt to this “new” version of a person, but other times, this “loss” can mean the end of a relationship as it previously existed.

2. Grieving a former version of yourself.

Have you ever looked at old pictures of yourself and realized how much you have changed? Or felt shocked by how much your life has changed? Change is inevitable; that is one of the core truths of life. However, when we take a moment to reflect on how we ourselves have changed, it is normal to feel a sense of grief for the person we used to be.

Sometimes we change by choice; we consciously reinvent ourselves and grow as human beings. However, sometimes we are pushed into changing ourselves simply due to life circumstances; we might receive a new diagnosis, enter a new career or make a new realization about life. Sometimes, we change simply because we are getting older! Whatever the reason for change may be, grieving the loss of our former selves is something we can all understand.

3. Grieving the loss of a job.

There’s an old saying we’ve heard hundreds of times: “when one door closes, another door opens.” But when the “closed door” is the loss of a job, it can be hard to imagine another door opening any time soon. When we lose a job, whether by choice or not, we leave behind a piece of our lives that cannot be replaced. We do not only lose the job itself; we lose the routine, the structure, the coworkers and the sense of security we established. This type of loss goes deeper than we anticipate sometimes. It is a grieving process to pack up, leave a job (even if it was a job we hated or in a toxic work environment), and trust that there is something else out there for us. It is a grieving process to accept the unfamiliar and become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

4. Grieving a “role.”

If we’re lucky, we spend the first 18 plus years of our lives in the role of “child” and “student.” We have adults who look out for us, and our only jobs are to go to school and to play.

I just graduated from my master’s program this past spring. This fall will be the first time I am not returning to school since I was 3 years old. This time of year is usually marked by excitement, anxiety and anticipation about beginning a new school year. For so long, I defined myself as a “student.”

But I am no longer a student. Who am I without this role or label that I have had for basically my entire life?

It is normal to feel a sense of grief when our roles in the world change, even if it is a positive change or an expected change. The way we interact with and participate in our environments changes when we adopt a new role, and we must become acquainted with the unfamiliar.

5. Grieving unmet expectations.

Raise your hand if, in the pasts six months, you’ve felt disappointment and sadness over a cancelled concert, wedding, gathering with friends, graduation ceremony, or birthday celebration. Yeah, me too.

Grieving unmet expectations can be devastating. There is a certain stigma associated with being upset over these types of things, especially in the age of COVID-19; we think to ourselves, “it is silly to be upset over this; things could be much worse.” While this might be true, this thinking is also incredibly unhelpful. We can be grateful for our health and safety during this time and still be upset over missed opportunities and lost experiences.

6. Grieving the loss of a celebrity.

Celebrity deaths have always hit me particularly hard. Much like feeling grief over unmet expectations, there can be both an internal and external stigma associated with grieving a celebrity. We might feel silly for being so upset over someone we didn’t even know personally or wonder why we feel so strongly about an event that really won’t impact our daily lives.

However, grieving the loss of a celebrity can be seen as a strength and a symbol of our shared humanity. We are able to feel empathy for the loved ones of the person who passed, either based on our own experiences with death or simply our ability to recognize the gravity of such a situation. We might be able to identify with the person who passed; for example, when Robin Williams passed away, many people were able to identify with his mental health struggles and felt that they could personally relate to what he experienced. This type of grief makes us more in-tune with the human experience and connects us to one another during life’s most troubling and devastating moments.

I challenge you to think of the types of grief we don’t talk always about. At the end of the day, we are all grieving something or someone. This fact can be incredibly sad and upsetting, or it can serve as a symbol of our unity and connectedness as human beings living out the human experience. I choose to see it as the latter.

Photo by Caique Silva on Unsplash

Originally published: August 31, 2020
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