Is Delayed Grief A Thing? Causes, Symptoms, And How To Accept It

Last Update on December 23, 2022 : Published on December 23, 2022

It’s quite frankly a common yet misplaced belief that when you lose someone, you experience grief immediately. That the stages of grief immediately follow the loss. I mean, take a movie, for example; it’s always shown that when a character hears the tragic news of loss, they immediately begin to grieve.

In reality, this can be far from the truth. Grief, for all of us, is unpredictable. How the loss will affect you, you never know. You can’t predict yours, much less anyone else’s, grief response.

Now, I’m not saying that you may not experience grief immediately after the loss, but I’m saying that it’s not the only way grief can respond. Sometimes, grief is slower to show than other times and this kind of response can be termed “delayed grief”.

A type of complicated grief, delayed grief can occur weeks or months after your loss. There are reasons behind this too. You may feel too shocked to grasp the news, have other thoughts in your mind, or even feel too overwhelmed to process the news.

Today, let’s explore more about delayed grief, its causes, symptoms, and how you can cope with delayed grief.

What Is Delayed Grief?


Source: Pexels

There are many types of grief responses and one of them is delayed grief. Delayed grief, exactly as the name suggests, is a reaction to your loss that you experience weeks, months, and sometimes years after the loss.

Grief isn’t a linear process and does not follow a predictable pattern. So the way you respond to a loss might be different from how others respond to the same loss.

Delayed grief can also be a response to breakups and miscarriages and can affect almost everyone. Even though the world has moved on since the loss, the intensity of the grief can still be as severe as if you experienced the loss just yesterday.

Other than delayed grief, there are other forms of complicated grief such as;

Symptoms Of Delayed Grief

Delayed grief, no matter how late it occurs, is still grief. And we all know how powerful and debilitating grief can be. While it may not affect everyone the same way, there are still some common symptoms that delayed grief shares with simple grief.

Here are some symptoms of delayed grief – both physical and emotional – that you should know about;

  • Recurring memories of the lost loved one
  • Having frequent nightmares about the lost loved one
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Intense feelings of sadness
  • Strong feelings of longing
  • Experiencing loneliness
  • Being angry
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Having low energy levels
  • Experiencing fatigue
  • Constant body aches and pains
  • Feeling anxious
  • Experiencing mood swings
  • Significant changes in appetite
  • Experiencing feelings of apathy

What Causes Delayed Grief?


Delayed grief risk factors are many and some of them can be normal responses to grief such as shock and anger. Other common causes of delayed grief can include;

  • Other Obligations After The Loss

There could be other obligations you need to keep that might cause a delay in your grieving. Sometimes, those obligations can force you to hold back your emotions, causing a late response. Here’s an example; you may not be able to grieve your parent initially because you were too busy handling the funeral arrangements or other financial obligations they had.

  • You’re Processing Your Emotions

Now that the initial grief has passed, and you have the time and space to confront and process your emotions, you may experience delayed grief. All the emotions and feelings you’ve been repressing the last few months are now catching up and your body (and mind) is now responding to the loss.

  • Reminders Of The Loss

You may think that you’re on the path to healing after grieving for the loss, but then suddenly you’re faced with reminders of your loss, triggering your grief once again. Here’s another instance to help you relate; during the pandemic of 2020, many people experienced delayed grief because of the inability to be near their loved ones as they passed or hold funerals right after the loss.

  • Other Causes

Apart from the above causes and triggers, there could be other events that may cause delayed grief, such as; divorce, an injury that kept you immobilized, pregnancy, a major life event – work or social – etc.

How To Accept Grief After Months?

There are many ways you can accept and cope with grief months and years after the loss. Here are some to help you;

  • Take Your Time

You need to understand that grief is a process and each person experiences grief differently. You can take your time to process your loss. Allow yourself some time and space to grieve and during these times avoid making any major life decisions. Just because your feelings came a little late, does not mean that your way of grief is wrong.

  • Be Kind To Yourself

No matter who or how you’re grieving, make sure you are kind to yourself. Keep a routine you can follow and practice self-love and self-care diligently. It’s your time to grieve and it should be done on your terms. Just remember to be compassionate and kind.

  • Seek Social Support

You can never go wrong in accepting your grief with social support. Know that it’s OK to seek help from others around you. Connect with your friends and family who’ve experienced the same loss, join a grief support group, or journal your feelings. Always try to honor your lost loved one by recalling your favorite memories.

  • Seek Grief Counseling

If you’re struggling with your grief and how to process the loss, then you can reach out to a grief counselor or your therapist for help. If your mood is low for more than 2 weeks or if you’re experiencing signs of depression, then you may be struggling with prolonged grief. Talking to a professional may help.

What Next?

Despite what others believe or how grief is portrayed in the media, grief is not a predictable or linear process. It does not follow a timeline and can emerge when you never expect it to. Delayed grief is when you experience the symptoms of grief months and years after the loss.

If you’re struggling with delayed grief, then know that it’s OK. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve and with the right support and help you can learn how to accept your grief.

I hope this article helped you understand delayed grief and how you can cope with it. For more, you can write to us at or DM us on social media.

You can also share your thoughts with us in the comments section below. 

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

As Seen On