The Four Tasks of Mourning: Grief Management for the Rest of Us

In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced the stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying. Since then, the five stages of the grief model have become widely accepted as the go-to framework for understanding how people journey through grief. But what if there were another way to think about grief? Enter Dr. William Worden and his framework of four tasks that help us understand how people journey through grief. Worden refers to them as the four tasks of mourning: accepting, acknowledging, adjusting, and reinvesting. Healing happens as grievers gradually address these tasks in no specific order, going back and forth from one to another over time. While many people are familiar with the five stages of grief, learning other ways to manage and understand your grieving process can be helpful. 

woman alone missing a partner

Accepting the Reality of the Loss

The first task of mourning is accepting that the loss has occurred. It can be challenging, especially if the death was unexpected or you are in denial about the finality of death. People often want to hold onto hope that their loved one will return, but at some point, you have to face reality and accept that they are gone. It doesn’t mean that you have to be okay with the loss; it just means acknowledging that it happened. Once you do this, you can move on and start working through the other tasks of mourning. 

Task Two: Working Through the Pain of Grief

The second task is working through the pain of grief. It is when you begin to feel all those messy emotions like sadness, anger, guilt, and loneliness. It’s essential to allow yourself to feel these emotions instead of pushing them away or numbing yourself with alcohol or drugs. 

Grief is a natural and necessary process that helps us heal from our losses. If we try to avoid or suppress our emotions, we will only prolong our grieving process. 

Task Three: Adjusting to a World Without Our Loved One

The third task is adjusting to a world without our loved ones. It can be difficult because it means accepting that our lives will never be the same again. We must find new ways to cope with our loss and create a new normal. 

This task can be challenging if we are very close to our loved ones or if they played an essential role in our lives (e.g., they were our primary caregivers). When someone we love dies, it’s not just them that we lose; we also lose a part of ourselves. 

Task Four: Reinvesting in Life

The fourth and final task is reinvesting in life without our loved ones. It doesn’t mean forgetting about them; it just means finding a way to move forward with our lives without them by our side. We might find new hobbies or interests, make new friends, or start volunteering for important causes. 

Reinvesting in life can help us find meaning and purpose after our loss. It can also help us remember that we are still alive and have something to live for despite our pain and sorrow. 

Four Tasks of Mourning: Grief Management for the Rest of Us | psychology today, Dr. William Worden provides a framework of four tasks that help us understand how people journey through grief which includes accepting reality, working through pain, adjusting without them, and reinvesting into life. Many people are familiar with the five stages of the grief model; however, learning different ways To cope helps us understand how others might be feeling. It is important to mourn the passing of a loved one, and these steps can ease you into acceptance.

We all know that losing a loved one is one of the most unimaginable or even worst things that can happen in one life. Dr. Cristi Bundukamara shares a light of her grieving experience to help and give knowledge about grief as she grief herself in losing 3 of her children. She shares her thoughts about this book and how this can help you with your grieving.

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