Grief May Look Different if You’re a Highly Sensitive Person
Grief is not something anyone enjoys. It is a difficult, painful process. Whether you are experiencing bereavement, the specific kind of grief related to the loss of a loved one who has passed away, or grief following another type of loss, allowing yourself to mourn and come to terms with the loss is essential. This can be especially true for someone who is considered a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). HSPs are people who feel things more deeply, experience a stronger connection with their emotions, or need more time to process feelings. When HSPs are working through grief and loss, they may have a different experience compared with people who are not highly sensitive. In this blog, we’ll talk a bit about how grief can impact HSPs differently and what they should keep in mind when navigating the grief process.
How Grief Impacts HSPs
HSPs can feel like their grief looks different than everyone else's - that's okay. Since HSP's tend to feel more deeply and have bigger emotions than a lot of people, we're often more expressive of our sadness when we're grieving. Our emotions often live right at the surface, not buried deep. You might feel like you're the only one grieving because other people's grief doesn't look like yours, but I promise you you're not. Everyone grieves differently — HSPs are more sensitive to loss and the feelings that come with it, so they are often more in tune with their grief.
Not all aspects of the grieving process are obvious. After the first few weeks of grief, people may not necessarily appear to be openly grieving from the outside, but they can still be experiencing a sense of deep loss and mourning. That’s because, initially, grief is processed on the surface, but over time, grieving becomes more internalized deep in the psyche. This part of the mourning process may not be as obvious to others, but it is still deeply felt and may be difficult for HSPs.
If you're an HSP experiencing grief right now, you might:
Grieve longer compared to others. Many HSPs view grieving (and other highly emotional experiences) as a sacred, reverent process. They are more likely to honor these emotions and allow them to resolve more slowly.
Experience more significant effects of grief, including both outward and inward effects like crying, exhaustion, and depression.
Have difficulty letting go of “things” right away (cleaning out the closet, donating items, or even distributing the estate) and need extra support to process the loss.
Feel alone in your grief, especially if you feel like you're the only one holding on to your loved one. Again, I promise you you're not alone.
Feel like you're not doing it "right" because you're expressing your emotions more than others do. You're doing grief exactly as you need to do it and that's okay. You don't have to change how you grieve. But, you also have to respect how others grieve even if it's different than how you grieve.
Tips for HSPs Navigating Grief & Loss
If you’re an HSP having a difficult time during the grieving process, here are a few tips to keep in mind when navigating grief and loss:
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, so don’t compare your grief process to that of other people.
Your feelings, whatever emotions you’re experiencing, are valid. Don’t judge the way you feel. Just allow yourself to feel things as they arise.
Treat your emotions with compassion and curiosity. Consider why you’re having certain feelings and what these emotions are telling you about what you need in order to heal.
Remember: HSPs often need to spend more time with their emotions before they’re able to process them. Give yourself time. Don’t rush yourself through the grieving process.
Find the Right Support
As an HSP, you may want to talk about your loss but aren't sure who will be able to hold space for you in your grief. This is where it's important to really understand yourself and your emotions, so you can turn to the right people who understand how you operate and what you need. Not everybody will be able to hold the depth of space you need right now, and that's okay. Figure out who can and turn to them when you want to talk about your person. Therapy is also a good source of support for HSPs when they're grieving.
Whether or not you consider yourself a highly sensitive person, grief can bring up a lot of difficult emotions, and the process of grieving can impact your daily life. If you’re a highly sensitive person and you’re struggling to cope with a loss, therapy may be an important next step in your grief and healing process. Anytime you need help working through grief or another difficult experience or processing your emotions, a therapist can help. If you’re interested in learning more about how therapy can be a beneficial part of the grieving process, reach out. We’ll be happy to answer your questions or schedule your first session.
Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels
About the Author
Christine Tomasello is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Founder of Beachside Counseling in San Diego, CA, where she helps clients work through grief and loss, major life changes, and challenging relationship patterns. Christine identifies as a helper, healer, and highly sensitive person (HSP), and specializes in working with other therapists, helpers, healers, and HSPs.