Commonalities & Differences in Grief

Notes from the TOPICS AROUND GRIEF Discussion Workshop


Session Date: 23 May 2020, 2.30pm

Facilitator – Andrew Weatherhead

Participants – 5 (4 bereaved parents, 1 bereaved sibling)


Commonalities identified within group discussion

  • We have the death of a child/sibling/grandchild in common
  • Loss of short- and long-term plans
  • Deep sadness
  • “Will I always feel this way? I’ll never feel better”
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Sleep Disturbances
  • Impact of the initial shock / devastation
  • The impact of a type of death (e.g. sharing commonalities with another person bereaved through suicide, illness, crime)
  • Our understanding of “how the world works”, the control we exercise in the world, etc. is undermined, we are left shaky
  • Our grief will be unique (paradoxically, what we have in common is that there will be variation between us in how our grief manifests and how we work through our grief)
  • We will change because of our bereavement
  • There will be practical issues that emerge because of our bereavement, legal effects, etc.
  • Physical impacts of grief, including fatigue, exhaustion
  • Our behaviours change (our responses to events can be amplified or dulled, for instance)
  • Family dynamics within immediate and extended family are altered, often profoundly so
  • We can want to get away from people
  • When we are with people they do not always converse with us in the way we would hope (e.g. they sidestep our bereavement, close down conversation, make assumptions)
  • Effects on our spiritual and/or religious beliefs
  • Work – paid and voluntary – is often effected (e.g. workaholism, avoidance, issues with concentration)
  • Financial effects
  • People often seem to treat us in a new and different way (that can leave us feeling different, separated, “the other”)

Note: we need to be careful about assuming commonalities, e.g. we have the death of a child/sibling/grandchild in common, and that is a powerful connection, but we can’t assume to know the shape of each other’s grief


Differences identified within group discussion

Often there are subtle differences rather than distinct ones … and often the difference can be identified when we explore our commonalities.

  • How far along we are in our grief (differences can particularly emerge as we move out of that initial shock)
  • The nature of our relationship with the person who died
  • Differences in how we view death and dying – whether we believe, for instance, in reincarnation or life after death
  • Differences in social engagement – some people retreat, others experience a degree of satisfactory social support
  • Previous losses – what degree of loss you have experienced in your life before
  • Genetic predisposition in coping with adversity
  • Some people are happy to talk about their lost loved one/s, their grief, etc.; others are uncomfortable and/or prefer not to (this can be a personal preference or it can relate more to how open we find others are in hearing about our grief and bereavement)
  • Cultural differences can be huge and can influence the trajectory of our grief (e.g. whether we feel our grief is sufficiently recognised within customs, belief systems, etc.)
  • Variation in anxiety levels and emotional expression
  • The degree to which the people you mix with knew the family member who died