Most people are aware and have heard of the five stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, a model created by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. However many are not knowledgeable of William Worden’s ‘four tasks of healing from a loss’ which is important to know especially for those who have lost a loved one. As you read more on the following tasks keep in mind that these tasks do not indicate that grief is a linear process, nor that you will go through them in the following order. Grief is incredibly unique for each individual, and there is no one right way to grieve. However, I do hope learning about these tasks can you help with your personal growth and healing.
1. To accept the reality of the loss
It is important to realize that your loved one has passed away, and will not return. Often we use denial as a defense mechanism, and this can delay the grief process. Try not to deny the meaning of the loss, or the facts of the loss. Accepting the loss does not only refer to intellectual acceptance but emotional acceptance as well. Full emotional acceptance can take some time and will occur as the other tasks are achieved.
2. To process the pain of grief
I always tell my clients to allow yourself to “feel the feelings” instead of pushing them away, continuing to distract yourself or deny them. Trying to suppress your emotions will only make the bereavement process more difficult. Allowing yourself to fully experience the uncomfortable emotions that come up is essential to the healing process.
3. To adjust to a world without the deceased
The goal is to not to try and forget your loved one but to be able to learn how to live without their presence. You are learning to live a “new normal.” During this time you may begin to notice routine tasks that your loved one used to do, whether it is making breakfast in the morning or paying the bills. This task may require to learn to do new things, so don’t hesitate to ask for help when it’s needed.
4. To find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life
This task focuses on moving forward, living life fully, as well as being grateful for those who are still here and all that you have. Life continues to go on after your loved one passes, and it important to remember the thoughts and memories, while at the same time participating in activities that you find pleasurable and meaningful. Sometimes guilt can make this task difficult, but allowing joy and happiness back into your life also means you are choosing to heal.
These tasks can be revisited over time, and do not have to be completed within a certain timeframe. Remember that grief can feel like a roller-coaster ride, with many highs and lows, and it can be difficult to work through on your own. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed therapist at Kaleidoscope Counseling if additional help is needed, or when you feel “stuck.”
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