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8 Faces of Grief

By Colleen Morris, B. Couns., M.Soc.Sci. (FT)

8 Faces of GriefI have had a number of different professions over the course of my life experience, and one of them was a funeral celebrant. I agree that it is not one of the more ‘popular’ career choices — you rarely expect your child to come home and announce that he or she wants to make a career of ‘burying dead people’ (and if he or she did, you might be a little anxious about your child’s mental health!)

Being a funeral celebrant was not my life ambition either, but being a minister of religion was. The two roles frequently go hand in hand. (Not that I contemplated that part when I announced at 12 years of age ‘what I wanted to be when I grow up.’)

In my training, I chose to forgo the opportunity to ‘look at a dead body’ during the mandatory visit to a funeral home in Melbourne. The first funeral I conducted, I led the service, played the piano, presented the eulogy and spoke the words of committal at the graveside. All of this was, as one would say, ‘a walk in the park.’ My greatest fear was that the casket would be open during the service. It wasn’t, and I have happily conducted many funerals since.

One of the most significant lessons I learned as I performed this role for people was that grief has many differing faces. Pain, suffering, relief, stoicism, distraction, sobbing, or a blank look — there is no ‘one way to grieve’ because our grief is as unique as our pain.

4 Comments to
8 Faces of Grief

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  1. This is a great article. Do you mind if I ask where you found these types? I’m a graduate student currently studying grief and would like to cite this source for a paper I’m writing.


  2. As a counselor I have been helping clients with grief and I agree with all your points. However, I was stunned to realize my son and daughter-in-law have without attending and helping their disenfranchised grief the past two years as they have unsuccessfully gotten ant and are now entering their in-vitro stage. I have brushed it off as frustration, and now I see in order to maybe not admit their plight is also painful for me, I have not given the support they so desperately need. I see their sadness (and frustration) but it has been like the elephant in the LR. The real heartbreak is skirted around. And me, both as a counselor, Mom and also one who has lived through that type grief… is always there and you want someone to notice it, help you, let you cry, but this type grief stays under the surface. And when no one validates it, you get into the cycle that “maybe I am overreacting” or you pour yourself into other things….but the thing is no one validates your feelings,and I want now to run to my son and daughter in laws house…hug them, let them cry, let them grieve. This kind of grief can steal months, years from your life. It “stole” 3 years out of life when no one acknowledged or diminished (you will get over it) the incidents or series of incidents. This #8 on the list was also an “aha” reaction as I realized a client I currently have….this is where she is stuck. Wow! I read this all…the types of grief…thinking “Yeah, I know that” and then I hit #8….I always “knew it” but kept it very safe in a compartment in my head. The sad thing is too many people go thru life without validation of this grief. Think of people you know now that just might need a shoulder to cry them….offer your shoulder.

    • Gaely, thank you for such an honest disclosure. I have only recently experienced my only ‘revelation’ about a family situation and wondered why I had not ‘ named’ it before. I wonder if we are simply too close and too emotionally involved to allow ourselves to name the ‘the truth’ of the situation. Colleen

  3. This is a helpful piece to share – not only to people who have a specific clear cut cause for grief, but for those round them, say at home and the workplace too. There are biases in all cultures (and individual families)about how you SHOULD react to loss and they can make an individual feel isolated. Because someone does not weep and wail doesn’t mean s/he isn’t mourning; I myself have experienced mourning that came on months and months after the event (partly just too busy dealing with everything that had to be done for everyone else)In one loss – I was a step parent – many people didn’t even acknowledge that I had had a major loss when a child died. And yet many who have seen spouses through interminable illness and who, by the end, were relieved, having grieved sometimes for years.

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