The Different Ways People Change When They Grieve a Loss

Everyone handles everything in life differently—including death.

There a number of variables that contribute to how we process such immense loss, and how we react to its aftermath.

We reached out to UCLA's Dr. Nicole Hisaka, who explained to Sweety High the different ways people change when they grieve a loss.

"Depending on the person who passed or their grief process, they may appear irritable or angry, sad and isolated, or sometimes relieved (provided the individual was suffering)," Dr. Hisaka says. "Oftentimes, the griever's typical behavior and presentation changes from their baseline during this grieving period due to the shock, adjustment and acceptance of the loss. The more that time passes, typically, the grieving process becomes a little easier changing the way people may appear both emotionally and socially/behaviorally, with the hope their functioning returns close to their original baseline. That's also not to say that some people's grieving will ever fully be resolved."

Unsplash: Bored girl looking through window blinds

(via Unsplash)

As for what contributes to one person grieving more intensely than someone else, you must "consider the nature of the relationship, whether it was a family member, an immediate family member, best friend, coworker, or partner," Dr. Hisaka explains. "Depending on the closeness of the relationship or attachment to this person, how much time spent together, or meaning the held to you, this affects the process of grieving. Similarly, the way the person passed, whether in peace or in pain, can affect the griever's response and their level of empathy. Knowledge of the passing, whether it was sudden or expected effects, the anticipation and 'shock-factor.'"

For example, "A person who has been aware of their grandparent with a terminal diagnosis for two years is more likely to grieve differently than someone who experiences grief surrounding an unexpected accident," Dr. Hisaka says.

People's coping styles in general also affect how they change when grieving.


(via Unsplash)

"If someone typically avoids conflict or challenging situations in their own life outside of grief, they're more likely to engage in avoidant strategies during the grief process," Dr. Hisaka explains. "If people typically tend to isolate or engage maladaptive behaviors, this also may be indicative of the way they grieve."

Adds Dr. Hisaka, "On the contrary, if others typically stay strength-based and positive during adverse times in their lives, they may be more likely to implement these coping skills in their grief process. However, just because we may have a typical coping pattern or response does not necessarily mean we will respond exactly the same way to grief."


If you want to know more about how we deal with grief, THESE are the five stages of grieving when someone passes away.