The stages of grief; a natural and normal response to loss
Death and experiencing the stages of grief are an inevitable part of life. One day someone may even grieve for us. Most people will enter into the mourning process and go on their own grief journey, and as far away as that may feel, at some point will recognise they have come to a place of post grief growth. That is, that the experience has changed their life and they have found a new kind of norm. This can be a lifelong process.
In less common situations the grief process can become more complicated and a person may need to seek professional help, However most people will not need professional assistance.
Models of the Grief Process- a way of trying to understand
Stages of Grief
Most people would be familiar with Elisabeth Kubler Ross’s stages of grief model:
Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
However they may not be aware that this model was actually postulated as the stages a terminally ill person may go through as they come to terms with their diagnosis along side those left behind.
Tasks of Grief
In more recent times, the view of grief has changed. We tend to see the grief experience as something we can work with, the ultimate achievement being finding a new place in the world. We call it grief work with tasks to undertake. In this way, there is something to be gained from the experience along side the loss, i.e. there is personal growth after grief.
William Worden’s Tasks of Grief model suggests 4 main tasks:
- Accept the reality of the loss
- Process the pain of the grief
- Adjust to the world and environment without our loved one in it
- Find an enduring connection with the deceased while also creating a new life without them in it.
The Dual Process Model
However we also recognise grief is very rarely a linier process and someone experiencing grief may tend to jump back and forth between stances in a bid to make sense and understand that the person they are attached to is no longer in physical form. Moving from a loss orientation to a restorative orientation, and oscillating back and forth between these two stances.
Stroebe and Schut Dual Process Model:
- Accept the reality of loss…. And accept the reality of your changed world
- Process the pain of the grief…. And take time off from the pain of the grief.
- Adjust to life without the deceased… and find our place a new within the changed environment
- Relocate the deceased emotionally and move on… develop new roles, identities and relationships.
Acknowledging that grief is an oscillating process is very helpful for those mourning. There will be good days and bad days. You will progress in creating new meaning in your life and you will also have days where none of it will make any sense. In some ways it is this oscillation that helps the grieving reset them selves in life and reconstruct the meaning for their world moving forward.
This is all part of a normal trajectory of the grief work.
We will never be the same. Bereavement changes us and it is meant to. In this way we never get over it, we do however get through it and get on with it; but Life and our place in the world will be altered forever without our loved one in their physical form.
It just takes time and understanding for this to occur in its natural timing.
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