The Different Styles of Grieving

In your life after loss, do you recall a time someone gave you advice that was completely at odds with what you were doing? No one is crazy here! People share what works best for them, but, my friend, there are different styles of grieving! The question you need answered is, “what is your style of grieving?”

Amy Florian, a thanatologist, author, and mentor, taught me a lot about grieving styles. In fact, according to her, there are three types of grievers: intuitive, instrumental and dissonant.

Don’t worry, there won’t be a test! Read each description and see which one sounds like what is happening in your grief journey!

Knowing HOW you grieve is important in helping you validate your grief journey.

The Intuitive Griever

The intuitive griever follows a pattern of being more in their heart than their head, and grief is a deep feeling they must express and talk through.  Are you an intuitive griever?

  • Do you act out your grief with feelings of sadness, anger, crying, shouting and withdrawing?
  • Do you need to process and share your emotions?
  • Do you need to talk, to tell the stories, and to have someone witness your grief.
  • Interestingly enough, a lot of women are intuitive grievers… BUT NOT ALL!

The Instrumental Griever

The instrumental griever follows a pattern of being more in their head than in their heart. Does the instrumental griever resonate with you?

  • Do you view grief is a physical, cognitive, or behavioral phenomenon? 
  • Do you like to remain objective and analyze your experience? 
  • Do you find yourself wanting to reminisce, review past scenarios and look for concrete ways to manage your grief?
  • Men tend to fall more into this category, but again, NOT ALL!

Those on the instrumental side of the spectrum may need validation that their way of grieving is appropriate. 

The Dissonant Griever 

Dissonant grievers exist outside of the spectrum, and they encounter an internal conflict between the way they experience grief internally and they way they can express it outwardly. 

  • Do you struggle with a feeling of cognitive dissonance or lack of integration? 
  • Do you struggle to hide your true feelings in order to protect an outward image?

Dissonant grievers need space and neutrality so that they can do the hard work of grieving. 

A Word Of Caution

Originally it was thought that styles of grieving followed sex and gender roles, but later research uncovered that it was actually a persons style of grieving that affected how they would process the experience, not their assigned gender.  Grief exists on a continuum. 

“Grief correlates more to style than gender. If you prejudge how people will grieve based on their gender, you risk alienating them.” 

Amy Florian, A Friend Indeed: Help Those You Love When They Grieve

My grief journey included a lot of instrumental grieving. I needed to check items off a list, organize things, and take over the operations of the farm. I would get frustrated with people who kept telling me to just “feel the feelings.”

Eventually I learned that, yes, I did need to feel the feelings, but ALSO I was grieving in my own way. I was metaphorically wrapping the life Jason and I had in wrapping paper and putting a bow on it with each completed task. Nice and neat.

It is my wish that you read this today and feel a sigh of relief. There is no wrong or right way to grieve. There is just the messy process, and a light at the end of the tunnel if you keep taking the baby steps forward.

Julie Martella

Blessings to you today friends,

Julie

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