Grief, Loss and Bereavement (part 3 – Wordens 4 tasks)

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Last week we looked at Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ 5 stages of grief, this week we are going to look at J William Wordens task-based model which aims to enhance the client’s self-awareness and instils belief in their own ability to accomplish a task.

Wordens task-based model suggests that grieving should be considered as an active process that involves engagement with 4 tasks:

  1. Accept the reality of the loss: this can be simple or complex, a person can accept the reality of the loss by attending the funeral/memorial or speaking about the deceased in past tense etc. but it can be more complex; has the person accepted the reality of the significance of the loss? e.g. have they down-played the significance of their relationship to deny the impact the loss has on them? – allowing the bereaved to talk about their loss can be all a client needs because it can be hard for them to talk to family and friends as some may avoid talking to them about it for fear of upsetting them and others may be grieving at a different speed and aren’t ready to talk about it yet. 
  2. Work through the pain of grief: this means processing all those uncomfortable feelings that link to grief ranging from sadness, fear, loneliness, hopelessness and anger to guilt, blame, shame and relief… the list goes on. – this can cause problems because in general people don’t like talking about these feelings, it makes them uncomfortable, so it may be difficult for the bereaved to work through these emotions. This is again a place where counselling can help by providing a safe place where they can feel comfortable expressing these emotions, or if they are avoiding these emotions because of how uncomfortable they are then a strong therapeutic relationship could provide the right platform for the counsellor to coax these emotions out.
  3. Adjust to a world without the deceased: Worden acknowledges that this can mean different things to different people depending on the relationship they had with the person who has died. It takes time and may involve internal, external and spiritual adjustments e.g. a widower may have to learn many new skills… paying bills, cooking or parenting, whilst also adjusting to living alone and doing things alone. This task requires developing the necessary skills to move forward in their new environment. – this could be a challenging time were the support of a counsellor could be invaluable.
  4. Find an enduring connection with the deceased while embarking on a new life: to find an appropriate, ongoing connection in our emotional lives with the person who has died, while allowing ourselves to continue living. To me this means allowing yourself to think of the deceased and remember them while beginning to engage in things that make you happy; new things or new relationships. For Worden not accomplishing this task is to not live, it is the idea that life stopped when the person died and that you can’t resume life in a meaningful way with a different sense of connection to the person that died. – Guilt could be a major emotion here and a counsellor can help you work through that guilt.

It seems prudent to remember that just like with the 5 stages model this is just a theory; there are many theories and none have been proven as absolute truth but these two theories have proved very successful for my clients who have struggled with grief, loss and bereavement.