In a recent blog I wrote about how the SPICE holistic model can help in managing grief (see chapter on Building Resilience in How to Get On with Anyone).  It prompts you to think about your whole self – spiritual, physical, intellectual, career and emotional sides – and to identify actions for healing.  The recovery paths after bereavement for each person are different and are strongly influenced by the specific circumstances and the nature of the individual relationships.  It is likely that personality also plays some part in how we respond to and recover from grief. 

Knowing about how different personality types respond to grief can help family members understand and empathise with each other at this difficult time.   

WDM84797 Patience on a Monument smiling at Grief, exh. 1884 (oil on panel) by Stanhope, John Roddam Spencer (1829-1908) oil on panel 126.5×110.5 © The De Morgan Centre, London English, out of copyright

Dr Lisa Prosser-Dodds has researched how different personality types respond to grief and has come up with a simple model of coping styles, based on the MBTI function pairs, which she describes in this TV interview .

Here is a summary of her “grief types” and how I have seen them played out in my own recent experience of bereavement. 

ST – the Practical griever.  The least emotionally outward with a focus on what needs to be done, and how to realistically get through this.  My ST husband showed this response, with his focus on the practicalities of organising the funeral and dealing with the estate.

SF – the Guardian griever.  They want to guard and uplift the memory of the deceased and they do real and tangible things to this end.  My SF mother has a photo of husband alongside her, has hoarded treasured mementoes and likes to have his ashes with her.  

NT – the Mastery griever.  They want to get it right and may use resources such as books and self-help groups to help them deal with it.  I can see this aspect in myself (INTP) – one of the things I did was to re-read the notes of Clare Ayers’ session at BAPT 2019 about understanding grief and loss.  

NF – the Searching griever.  They want to find meaning and they search for the meaning they can find in their loss. 

With such different responses to bereavement and different paths to recovery, misunderstandings can occur, making it hard to support each other through grief.  Being aware of these potential differences can help family members be kind to each other and support each other in their own unique ways.