Defining Delayed Grief and How to Cope with It

Posted by: Erin Ward in Grief and Guidance, Memorialization | July 8, 2021

Grieving the loss of a loved one can look very different from person to person, especially since there are many different types of grief. One type of grief that’s not often talked about is delayed grief.


Keep reading to learn more about this grief type and how to find healthy ways to cope or show your support to a loved one who’s coping with it. 


Defining Delayed Grief 

Delayed grief is just how the name sounds. According to Beyond Life, it's “grief that you don’t fully experience until quite a while after your loss.” It varies depending on the person, but this can mean weeks, months, or even years after the death of a loved one.  

As to why their grief is delayed, it can be for a variety of reasons. One reason could be the shock of their loved one’s passing if it was unexpected. Or they may not have time to grieve normally, whether that means they’re busy caring for other family members or taking on additional responsibilities after their loved one’s passing.  

Per lovetoknow, some common symptoms are: 

  • Anger  
  • Anxiety  
  • Depression  
  • Feeling emotionless 
  • Intrusive thoughts about your loved one  
  • Isolation  
  • Physical pain  
  • Sleep and appetite changes 

If this type of grief lasts for a long time, it can escalate to the person avoiding the reality of their loss. But by finding healthy ways to cope, they can begin to move forward while honoring their loved one in the process. 


How to Cope with Delayed Grief 

Depending on how far delayed grief has escalated, you may want to talk to a professional grief counselor. They have the knowledge and tools to help you work through your feelings and find healthy ways to cope. They also can recommend any local grief support groups. 

You may find comfort in choosing a meaningful way to honor your loved one’s memory. Whether that’s through a personal project or something to make a positive difference in your community. For example, if you want a personal project, you can make a scrapbook or photo album of your loved one’s life. Or you can start a scholarship in your loved one’s honor. Whatever you choose, know that your loved one will always be a part of you. 

You also should take time to yourself to reflect on your thoughts and emotions. An easy way to do this is by writing them down in a grief journal. Plus, this can help you better explain how you’re feeling if you meet with a grief counselor. 

Don’t forget to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. To get the most out of your healthy grieving methods, you need to pair them with self-care. This could mean taking a relaxing bath or watching your favorite movie. 


How to Support Someone Who Is Coping with Delayed Grief 

If your loved one is coping with this type of grief, you can listen to them when they’re ready to talk. But don’t push them if they’re not ready. Although it may be frustrating to watch them not accept the reality of their loss, they need to come to terms with it on their own to truly begin the healing process. 

If they want to do a memorialization project, you can offer to help them with it. For the ideas above, you can help gather supplies for the scrapbook or do research on how to get a scholarship started. You also can suggest grief counselors in your area. 


What other ways can you cope with delayed grief? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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