Understanding Abbreviated Grief: Why It Happens and How to Cope

Abbreviated grief refers to an authentic form of grief that feels short-lived or even inappropriate given the circumstances. That said, even if the grief feels temporary, the feelings are still there, and they can fluctuate over time.

Abbreviated grief can be difficult because it might feel like you’re suppressing your emotions even when you’re not. You may also feel guilty for not feeling “more” sad or lost. Let’s get into unpacking what’s most important in understanding this type of grief.

Abbreviated Grief Can Happen When There’s New Life or Change

A widowed spouse may experience abbreviated grief if they meet someone new just after the loss and get remarried. Or, a couple grieving a miscarriage may feel abbreviated grief if they quickly conceive and birth a child. Or, a man whose house burned down in a tragic fire sees this moment as a sign to finally relocate to his dream city.

In all of these cases, the grief of the first loss absolutely exists. But the new movement can instill a sense of hope, optimism, and love that can seemingly expedite the painful emotions of loss.

Abbreviated Grief Isn’t a Choice

We don’t get to choose which emotions arise during the grieving process. It’s normal to toggle between intense feelings of sadness, guilt, confusion, anger, loneliness, and relief. In addition, each grief experience is entirely unique- even if you’ve endured a tragic loss in the past, that doesn’t mean you’ll endure subsequent losses in the same way.

With that said, abbreviated grief isn’t voluntary or conscious. It can be a natural response to loss. It may happen when you aren’t very close to the person who you lost, but it can also occur if you’ve already accepted the loss and have been able to contextualize that into your life.

Abbreviated Grief May Occur When You’ve Already Experienced Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief refers to experiencing grief before a loss occurs. It’s common for people to experience this type of grief when a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or is already in hospice care.

Of course, some conditions can be awful, long, and painfully drawn out for individuals and their family members. These types of circumstances are emotionally intense, and they often exacerbate feelings of grief. Therefore, when the death actually happens, some people find that the loss is relieving.

Abbreviated Grief Can Happen to Both Children and Adults

Abbreviated grief is common in children. Young children, in particular, can’t understand the permanent effect of death, and even when they do develop a concept of it, they often can’t comprehend that it will happen to people they know or themselves. It can seem like they “move on” quickly, although they still may be grieving in their own ways.

Likewise, adults may follow a similar pattern. Even though you may still have feelings about the loss or what specifically happened around it, you move through the grieving process quickly.

Abbreviated Grief Doesn’t Mean You’re Avoiding Grief

It’s important to note that grief doesn’t have a set timeline. There is no right amount of time for grieving, and you should be compassionate with yourself. when it comes to how and when you feel your emotions.

Some people feel like their grief never ends, but others are surprised to find that their grief doesn’t affect them as profoundly as they imagined it would. That said, it’s important to avoid assuming that someone with abbreviated grief isn’t grieving. Abbreviated grief is not the same as absent grief, which refers to having no grief after a loss.

Abbreviated Grief Can Lead to Delayed Grief

In some cases, abbreviated grief turns into delayed grief, which refers to grief symptoms that may emerge several months or years after the loss. Even though you might feel like things have returned to normal quickly, a triggering moment might reawaken the grief cycle.

This is also normal. Like abbreviated grief, delayed grief isn’t conscious. Grief happens in waves, and it can ebb and flow at different capacities throughout the lifetime.

Grief Therapy for Loss and Death in Texas

All types of grief can be complicated, lonely, and difficult to cope with. Whether you experienced a loss recently or many years ago, the wounds may still be quite fresh, and you may feel lost with how to take care of yourself or function in life.

I specialize in grief and loss and am here to support you on this journey. The goal isn’t to just move on from how you feel. Rather, therapy entails identifying your feelings, processing and exploring your needs, and healing the pain from your past. I invite you to contact me today to learn more about my process and to schedule a consultation.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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