Grief Counseling in Petaluma ~ Sonoma County
Tasks of Mourning
During the holiday season, many find themselves grieving the loss of a loved one. Getting through the holidays in the wake of a loss can be particularly challenging. Worden (2002) outlines a very helpful set of mourning tasks that give surviving family members and friends a direction with regard to their grief. Often these tasks of mourning are addressed in therapy. If you find yourself grieving, I hope you will give us a call to set up an appointment.
Here is a brief sketch of Worden’s tasks of mourning:
Task I: To Accept the Reality of the Loss It may sound obvious, but when a loved one dies, our first task is to move through the initial shock and denial, and come to accept the reality of the loss. This is more than an intellectual acceptance; instead, it is an emotional acceptance that moves beyond the natural tendency to protect ourselves from the pain of the loss’s reality. Rituals are helpful with this task – hence the importance of funeral rites or other kinds of memorial services.
Task II: To Work through the Pain of the Grief The second task of Worden’s model involves the difficult work of moving through the painful feelings of the loss. We grieve because we love – grief is an attachment behavior and testifies to the connection we held with the deceased. Task II, however, also reveals complex feelings we may hold about the deceased and is the time during which we resolves these feelings as well. Understandably, many of us want to skip this step. We might find ourselves avoiding reminders of the deceased, moving out of state (i.e., a “geographic cure”), or “moving on” too quickly so as to avoid the intense emotions associated with the loss. Worden cautions, however, that anything that helps us avoid the pain of our grief only prolongs the grieving process.
Task III: To Adjust to an Environment in which the Deceased is Missing Worden suggests that, in the wake of a death, there are practical adjustments (i.e., how the loss affects everyday functioning), internal adjustments (i.e., how the loss affects our sense of self), and spiritual adjustments (ie., how the loss affects our beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world). While working on these adjustments, the person begins to find ways of living a meaningful life without the deceased.
Task IV: To Emotionally Relocate the Deceased and Move on with Life In the field of grief and loss, this task represents a profound shift in thinking. Whereas it was previously thought that the bereaved individual should divest his or her energy from the deceased, it is now understood that the bereaved must find ways of developing “continuing bonds” with the deceased. The bereaved must find a place for the deceased that will enable him or her to remain connected with the deceased while also going on with life.
With regard to these tasks, there is no correct timeline. Each person grieves and mourns at his or her own pace. What is most important as we grieve is that we remain connected to the process and find meaningful ways of engaging with it. Psychotherapy and support groups offer the best way to do this, as they provide the “container” for each task to emerge, be worked with, and resolved.
Sil Machado, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist offering psychotherapy, counseling, and neurofeedback in Santa Rosa, CA. His unique approach incorportates years of training and experience working with individuals with grief, anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, relationship problems, and LGBT issues. He blends depth psychotherapy approaches with cutting edge methods, including EMDR and neurofeedback. He is a therapist offering psychotherapy in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, and Sebastopol.