Abbreviated Grief

A very simplified definition of abbreviated grief is a short-lived, but genuine form of grief.  It appears that the process seems to be worked through quicker than "normal".

I have come across several possible reasons that bereavement appears shortened.

It may occur because of immediate replacement of the deceased. Perhaps a widow or widower has gotten remarried rather quickly.

I had an uncle that lost his first wife to a brain tumor.  They had a long and wonderful marriage.  He truly loved her.  Many of the relatives were quite concerned when he married again within 6 months.  The second marriage turned out to be a great blessing as well.  Not only was she a great wife to him, but for the rest of us she was a wonderful addition to the family.

Another reason for abbreviated grief could be due to insufficient attachment (not enough affection, connection) to the deceased person. This could be true of children who barely knew a distant relative.


Abbreviated Grief Silhouette


Anticipatory grief may be a contributing factor.

When a person knows ahead of time that their loved one is going to die, they sometimes begin the grieving process before the actual death. Then when the death occurs, they have already worked through some of the grieving.

This happened to me with my dad. He had Alzheimer's disease. I would grieve the loss of his ability to remember. It hurt to watch some of the personality traits that I loved disappear even while he still lived.


When he died I definitely still mourned him. But perhaps I did not mourn as intensely at the time of his death than if I had lost him suddenly to a heart attack.

Also, sometimes mourning or grief may seem abbreviated because the bereaved is afraid of what will happen if they “let go” and allow themselves to vent their feelings. They fear losing emotional control.

However, it is important to allow the bereavement process to happen. A person struggling with this perhaps can give themselves boundaries.

"I will allow myself to cry for 15 minutes a day,

then I will get back to work”

This could help them feel “safe” and less out of control, but still allow the bereavement work to be done. We must allow ourselves to grieve in a timely and healthy way!

It is also important that the bereaved person or those around them do not make judgments.  Grief doesn't follow a tidy timeline.  There are no rules that say it must take a specified amount of time.  If a person has worked through the grief process in a healthy manner we should not jump to the conclusion that they have not grieved properly.




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