Many types of loss exist in our world, but death is one of the hardest losses to understand. Many times I am asked questions such as, “why did he have to die?” or “why didn’t I just stay one day longer? Maybe if I was there he wouldn’t have died.” Grief and bereavement can be a complicated process depending on the type of loss you have experienced. Some losses are expected (a loved one dying from a terminal illness, old age and natural causes) and others are sudden (heart attack, car crash). Below you will find information about the bereavement process to help you understand how to cope with death.
According to Worden, four tasks of mourning exist.
- To accept the reality of the loss
- To work through the pain of grief
- To adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing
- To emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life
Accepting the reality of the loss can be difficult because it involves not only an intellectual acceptance but also an emotional one. It is easy to believe that the loved one is still away on a trip or has gone to the hospital again. Be patient as you work to realize the reality of the death.
Not everyone experiences the same intensity of pain or feels it in the same way, but it is impossible to lose someone you love without feeling or experiencing some level of pain. Working through this pain is necessary. If the pain is continually avoided, the grief could manifest in a more complicated way such as major depression or conduct disruption.
Three areas of adjustment are needed after the death of a loved one. 1) external adjustments-how the death affects one’s everyday functioning in the world, 2) internal adjustments-how the death affects one’s sense of self, and 3) spiritual adjustments-how the death affects one’s beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world.
The last task is about finding a place for the deceased that will enable you to be connected with the deceased but in a way that will not keep you from living life. Find a way to memorialize and remember your loved one while still continuing to experience your own life.
If you need help working through the tasks of grief and bereavement, please contact a therapist in your area who is skilled in working with grief and loss.
Kristie Watts is a Marriage and Family Therapy Resident at Groff and Associates Counseling. Her passions are grief and loss, parent/child relationships, and pregnancy related struggles. If you are interested in seeing a counselor and think that Kristie may be a good fit, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Information taken from J. William Worden in “Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy. Third Edition.” 2002