The Four Tasks of Grief

I am a hospice chaplain and I deal daily with death, dying and grief. As we grow older, grief becomes an area that we visit more frequently. No one can escape confronting the feelings associated with grief and there is no one way to go through the process of grief! But we can generalize and affirm that it is a "process" which is made up of four tasks that everyone must negotiate to successfully negotiate the grief process. J. William Worden identified these four tasks after a long study of the grief process! The "normal" grief process lasts 1-2 years and this is influenced by many factors including the nature of our relationship with the deceased and our history of dealing with grief! The death of a child or a sudden death presents different challenges but the four tasks are the same!

The first task is to accept the reality of the loss. This means you intellectually and emotionally work through the tendency to deny the loss and accept the fact that your loved one died! The early feelings of shock give us a sense of unreality but after a few days, weeks, or months the reality of the loss hits us.

The second task is to experience the pain of loss. This means you cannot intellectualize your feelings but you must experience the pain of sadness, despair, anger, guilt, shock and any other feeling that arises! Crying is a normal response! Ones faith does not give an exemption from experiencing the pain of loss but it does provide us with perspective and the comfort of a loving God and the hope of life after death!

The third task of grief is to adjust to an environment without the deceased.

The loss of a close loved one turns our world upside down and we come to understand that our lives have been changed forever. We must learn to live our lives in a new way!

The fourth task is to emotionally relocate the deceased and moving on with life. This is last task that means you begin to redirect your emotional energy from the deceased to the living!

May all those who mourn this day find hope and comfort as they traverse the landscape of grief.