Sometimes, the normal mourning process can turn to complicated or abnormal grieving for a number of reasons. These can include the circumstances of the death, the person’s history of grieving experiences, and the personality of the bereaved and the availability of support. We discussed earlier the more common reactions experienced in grief, but in order to identify abnormal grief, we can categorise complicated grief reactions into four headings.

1. Chronic grief reactions

Grief can become chronic in cases where the bereaved no longer believes they have an identity without the deceased. They feel that they cannot function alone. Chronic grief is the most common form of abnormal grief and typically affects people who have lost their long time partner.

2. Delayed grief

This type of abnormal grief can occur unexpectedly some time after the death of the loved one. The bereaved appears to function well immediately after the death, but is really delaying the grief due to other life stressors, including supporting others and arranging funerals. The grief occurs at a later date in response to another loss or as a reminder of the loss.

3. Exaggerated grief

Exaggerated grief is where the bereaved person is so overwhelmed by the death of their loved one, that they develop major psychiatric disorders such as phobias and disabling helplessness.

4. Masked grief reactions

When the bereaved experiences physical symptoms that do not at first appear to be related to the loss, it can be a masked grief reaction. This type of abnormal grief is thought to occur when normal grief cannot be openly expressed because of cultural or societal factors.