Style Of Grieving: Intuitive Grief VS Instrumental Grief

In their research of grief, two prominent psychiatrists, Terry Martin and Kenneth Doka, identified two major patterns of grief response. Known as intuitive grief and instrumental grief, the psychiatrists observed that these two different styles of grieving existed on a spectrum, being the extremes or the end points.

What is intuitive grief? For some cultures, such as Western cultures, people expect grief to be manifested or represented in emotional manners. It is natural to connect sorrow, sadness and crying to the picture of grief. This style of grieving is associated with intuitive grief.

Feelings and emotions become the symptoms of grief, as the expression of grief aligns with the individual’s internal emotions and state of mind. For instance, they would respond with “I have been crying all night”, which emphasises and highlights an emotional outpouring or expression that is associated to their grief. Those who grieve intuitively are more likely to experience grief as waves of emotions. For such intuitive grievers, processing and exploring their feelings is one way to help them move forward in life.

You can help intuitive grievers heal by letting them share about their emotions and talk through their feelings. Because they feel more than they think, it would be useful to provide them with a support system that is familiar with the way of intuitive grief.

Just as how some people love to become deeply personal and frank about their experiences of grief, there are those who fall in the complete opposite. This style of grieving is commonly associated with instrumental grief. Being less likely to explicitly show signs or emotions of grief, instrumental grievers can be characterised by their problem-solving and rationalised approach. For them, the process of healing can be situated in the activities and tasks that they dedicate themselves into doing. They tend to think and analyse a lot, as it is their style of processing loss and grief. Through the breaking down of grief into simpler and less overwhelming steps, instrumental grievers cope with experiencing the loss of a loved one.

How can one alleviate the suffering of an instrumental griever? The best way is to give them “distractions”, such as a list of household chores or things to shop for. By doing so, you will provide them a cognitive outlet to channel their energy towards, helping them to offload from over-thinking about their pain.

However, as mentioned before, different kinds of people work through grief in different ways. These two patterns of grief are simply two polar ends of a continuum. Most people deal with grief in both emotional and rational ways, giving rise to various blended styles of grieving. Being aware of this spectrum can help one support a griever.

At Embrace Funeral Services, we recognise that everyone grieves differently. Not only do we assist with funeral services in Singapore, we are experienced in providing bereavement support to families in need of it. We are focused on catering to all funerary preparations and needs, so that grievers can appropriately mourn and bid farewell to their loved ones.

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