Grief work is not easy. We assume those who grieve are sad all the time, wallowing in their feelings and crying over every reminder of their loss. Often, grievers feel avoided and ignored because no one wants to accidentally make the griever feel worse. The same is true of the Enneagram – when a friend knows your Enneagram type, you may find they behave differently based on what they expect you to do or say in response.
While this can be frustrating, getting to know ourselves better is the only way to disarm these harmful and dismissive assumptions. Grief and Enneagram shadow work are very similar in their approach and application. In both instances, we wrestle with the unknown sides of life that indicate unacknowledged pain, confusion, or disruption to our path forward.
Effective grief and Enneagram work provides a framework for understanding ourselves and embracing new ways of thinking about our lives and circumstances. The more we learn, the more we realize we are unique individuals. The nuance of our individuality causes our grief journey to be like a fingerprint. Even when some stereotypes apply, there is always a part of our spirit that needs a little more intention.
This journey allows us to cultivate the compassion needed to find movement through our pain. As you embrace the truth of grief in your life, you may find that learning more about your Enneagram type provides extra support.
Today, I want to unpack type misconceptions and how they can lead us to incorrect assumptions about how we “should” feel and move through our grief stories. We already know that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for all. We can reckon with the stereotypical reactions in our enneagram types that act as easy excuses to avoid the deeper, more intimate work of pursuing healing in our grief.
Type Ones are often perceived as hard, black and white, and intense. They’re known for their strict boundaries and their ever-present inner critic keeping them on track (and held back).
In grief, this can look like the person chasing down justice for themselves, trying to find the right way to grieve. But no right way exists, and there is often no real justice for the loss we experience. We have no one to blame, so we tend to blame ourselves. If only we could have found a better path, or made better decisions, maybe we wouldn’t be feeling this much pain.
Yet, Type One’s have access to lightheartedness and a playful demeanor. These integration characteristics will move them through melancholic overthinking and onto a path of restoration. When a Type One embraces the unknown with an expectation of warmth on the other end, they can begin to release their rigid expectations of doing grief “correctly.”
Grievers know two emotions can exist at the same time – because there is gray space in life. When a Type One recognizes ambiguity, their laughter returns, despite sad feelings that remain. And this is the path forward.
Type Twos are known for being selfless, casual, and willing to set all their needs aside for the well-being of others. They keep their own emotions close to the vest with an intent to serve — which masks their sense of self.
This can mean they don’t actually grieve! Don’t get me wrong, Twos feel deeply and experience grief personally in their lives. But grief itself and the act of grieving are wildly different, and most of the time, Twos can’t move beyond their default coping mechanism of caring for others.
When Type Twos see the truth that their serving is a safety net, things will shift. They become more introspective and introverted, choosing to move toward their own sense of need and healing in a way that disarms the manic energy to serve others.
This integrated Two becomes a total Zen-master, learning how to engage their inner world with the insight and compassion typically reserved for others. From here, they can teach others how to do the same without needing to do it for them. They release the desire to control or manipulate and instead learn to let themselves and others feel their feelings — even when they’re sad.
Type Threes are passionate, externally focused, driven, charismatic, and positive. However, the changing masks of a Three make it harder for their genuine emotions to surface. In seasons of grief, this becomes more evident.
Threes need to know they are safe to fall apart, and that level of trust doesn’t come easily. So many Threes will convince others and themselves they’re doing fine. Barely impacted at all, even. Sure, grief is sad, and, like everyone else, they feel sad about the loss. But for the most part, a Three may seem even-keeled and smooth as glass on the outside.
Internally, however, a war is waging. Type Threes who learn to engage their repressed emotions and feel intentionally can be incredibly supportive and loving to themselves and others. Threes are usually supportive, but learning to authentically and honestly support themselves means they also have to drop the act of having it together all the time.
Emotionally healthy Threes will be honest with their safe few when they are overwhelmed, grieving, and need help. The hard part for grieving Threes is that while they believe their masks are intact, everyone else can see the facade cracking. The pressure of loss is too heavy to bear alone, and a Three can move into a place of cooperation for their own healing when the atmosphere is safe enough.
Part 2 & 3 Coming Soon!
Mandy Capehart is an author, speaker, and certified grief and life coach in the Pacific Northwest. She is the founder of The Restorative Grief Project, an online community of grievers and grief supporters looking for movement while they heal. Her first book is titled, “Restorative Grief: Embracing our losses without losing ourselves,” released in 2021. This is a memoir and 31 day guidebook for managing grief and growth in the aftermath of loss, no matter how long it lasts. You can hear more about her grief work on her podcast, Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart. She also co-hosts The Uncomfortable Grace Podcast, where space is held for growth amid the messy middle-parts of life.