Grief in action/ calling it what it is/the work involved

There are many metaphors that we use to make death more acceptable, sometimes it can be difficult to use the word dead when we are talking about a loved one, so we say we have lost them, or they have passed. The permanence of death is difficult to comprehend, that space, the gaping wound of heartbreak, the guilt of us still being alive if they died young, the guilt of us living and laughing while they are no more can often be too much for us. We may often feel helpless that we could not have saved them. The grieving process takes time and energy 

One of the experts Worden explains the tasks we need to fulfil to grieve fully.

Task 1:  To accept the reality of the Loss

This includes facing the fact the person is dead and will not be returning. I remember choosing a cardigan for my father for Christmas three years after he died. It was only when I went to pay for it, and staff asked was it the right size that the reality hit me, that he was dead. I thought I was doing well, but it’s when you least expect it the mind plays tricks. Many people often think they see their loved ones on the street, and this searching is normal. We may have difficulty clearing out the person’s belongings, deleting their number from the phone, letting go of these things are like letting go of the person. The importance of rituals at this point, especially funerals and burial, or cremation religious or non-denominational are important to allow this part of the tasks to happen.

Task 2. To process the Pain of Grief

Our support of the bereaved allows that unexpected pain, often physical, to be processed by the family. Not judging that the person is wallowing in self-pity but suffering incredible loss. They may be unable to sleep or to eat or to take any interest in the world that has kept turning even though they do not feel it moving. The idea of the world and everyone in it getting back to normal and their life will never be the same is beyond their comprehension. If we do not process the pain or if we numb it with whatever we use to forget, we are prolonging this task and may continue to revisit it until it is unbearable. 

Task 3 To adjust to a world without the deceased

This includes the external adjustment of living alone perhaps, raising children alone, some people feel it like losing a limb. What role are you playing now without the loved one playing theirs.

Internal adjustment includes asking who am I now? Where do I belong now, how is my confidence and self-esteem, even where do I fit in anymore?

Spiritual adjustment of how I really feel about the world now that it has fallen on top of me. What do I believe in, have a I am faith to sustain me or does nothing really matter anymore? 

All this goes on while your energy and joy in life is at its lowest. This is not easy work and being kind to yourself and trying to take care of your own needs might seem like work, but it is like training for a marathon, you cannot and will not get through these tasks unscathed if you lose sight of your own self-care.

Task 4. To find an enduring connection with the deceased during embarking on a new life.

It is unnecessary and unlikely that anyone will “get over” the death of a loved one, so this task is important to recognise with love and kindness and compassion for ourselves. We do not want to forget, and we cannot stay fully with the loss. We can find a way to remember and stay connected to our loved one, and again I encourage ritual or metaphor in this remembrance and connection. This will be personal to each person and you will know yourself what were the important moments that you shared. Find these and hold them close. People have written books, poems, songs, to try understanding how they are feeling. We share connections through seeing a robin, hearing a song, or whatever keeps you sustained as you begin to embark on a new life.


We do not do the tasks one after the other. 

You will revisit and return to them over an extended period. When you are ready there are many books that will give you comfort not because they are full of solutions and guidelines, but it may be of some comfort to know you are not alone or losing your mind because you feel a particular way.

If there comes a time when you feel you are not doing so well then it might be time to seek a therapist or counsellor to sit with and explore what your feelings are saying to you. Be mindful of anyone telling you how you should feel at whatever point you are at in the grieving process as you are the only person who knows the extent of your own pain.


Grief Counselling and Grief Therapy Fourth Edition J. William Worden


Pin It on Pinterest