Grief is an experience that we all inevitably face at some point. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, or a dream, grief can be deeply painful, overwhelming, confusing, and scary. And… how we attach affects how we grieve.
Our attachment style is shaped by our early experiences with caregivers. It influences how we handle bonding, separation, and loss. There are four main attachment styles: secure, anxious, avoidant, and disorganized. While attachment runs on a spectrum, understanding your style and how it influences your grief will help you navigate your loss in a gentler way.
Secure Attachment and Loss
People with a predominantly secure attachment style tend to have an easier time coping with loss. Because they are better equipped to work through their feelings , they are more easily able to accept and navigate loss. They tend to seek support from others and express their emotions openly.
Anxious Attachment and Grief
People who identify as having an anxious attachment style tend to struggle with feelings of abandonment and rejection. The attachment system is almost continuously primed, therefore they feel the loss continuously. They may feel like they aren’t getting enough support or feel more alone. They also might struggle with asking for their needs to be met and constant fear or obsession.
Avoidant Attachment and Grief
Avoidants have a harder time acknowledging and expressing their grief. They might push their emotions aside and move on quickly. However, because the emotions are merely suppressed, this only delays in the grieving process. The suppressed emotions also tend to build up, catalyzing explosions and rifts in long term relationships.
Disorganized Attachment and Grief
Because the disorganized attachment style contains both the anxious and the avoidant, they will dominate with one style of behavior while also acting or thinking with the opposite behavioral style. Both closeness and loss can feel terrifying for the disorganized attacher. They become overwhelmed by the intensity of their emotions and can feel stuck, confused or act in erratic ways.
Because loss is traumatic, it can throw us further into whatever insecure behavior responses we have. Working with a therapist, learning to support yourself, lean on others, and honor your loved ones can bring you back into alignment and security. These behaviors can even give us a sense of freedom and empowerment by knowing you can handle things in a secure way regardless of what life throws at you. Life is already hard enough, why not experience it in a gentler, more supportive way?