Grief is a natural response to a loss. Losses often involve a death of a partner, family member, friend, or pet. Feelings associated with grief vary but can include sadness, anger, guilt, regret, and helplessness. The way in which individuals adapt to a loss depends on a variety of factors such as coping style, age, beliefs, and personality variables. In order to assist clients with working through their grief issues I largely work from the task theory perspective developed by psychologist J.W. Worden. His model is referred to as the Four Tasks of Mourning.
The Tasks of Mourning are as follows:
Task 1: To accept the reality of the loss.
Task 2: To process the pain of grief.
Task 3: To adjust to a life without the deceased.
Adjusting adaptively often includes making external, internal, and spiritual adjustments.
Task 4: To maintain a continuing bond with the deceased while embarking on a new life.
Individuals experiencing grief may be struggling with at least one of the four tasks of mourning. A major reason for the model’s effectiveness is that the tasks imply that clients can actively do something to manage their grief symptoms. As we collaboratively explore the tasks of mourning and identify the areas that are challenging to work through, clients gain an understanding of how their thoughts, emotions, or behaviours have prevented them from adaptively moving through the grief process.
Clients may also notice how their coping styles have prevented them from grieving effectively with past losses. As they move through the tasks of mourning they often develop a sense of control over their lives, which is a crucial step in alleviating feelings of helplessness. Additionally, clients give themselves the permission to embark on a new life while finding meaningful ways of staying connected to what was lost.