Grief is a very personal experience that cannot be simply understood or shared the same way. To help shape how grief can be expressed, we look at intuitive and instrumental grief. The concepts of intuitive grief and instrumental grief was developed by Terry Martin and Kenneth Doka. Intuitive grief explores a person’s external expressions of emotions as a reflection of the internal emotion. This process and can look like attending a grief group to share story, crying in public, the basic concept of having one’s grief be witnessed. Instrumental grief on the other hand, is an individual cognitive or physical experience that happens internally through a process or practice
Our society heavily accepts intuitive grief and oftentimes shames instrumental grief. Instrumental grief is seen as someone being “stuck” or “not making progress” due to perceived lack of emotional response from the griever. This oftentimes can make those who are instrumental grievers feel like they are “grieving wrong” when they do not meet others’ expectations to express emotions publicly. Oftentimes, an instrumental griever’s external expression may not give much insight into their internal feelings. This is okay and the instrumental griever must be allowed to understand their own grief in private. If you are an instrumental griever, take your time, there isn’t a right or wrong way to grieve.
Ultimately, there is no way someone can fail at grieving because it is not something to defeat, overcome, or succeed in. Grief and loss will always be part of our lives, so let’s increase our compassion with ourselves and others regarding the many ways people experience and mourn significant loss.