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Interactive Tutorial Transcript: Models of Grieving

Though grief may manifest differently from person to person, the experience can follow a similar pattern. Several models and frameworks have been developed to attempt to explain the common process and tasks associated with grieving. Social workers should draw on these models when helping clients navigate a loss. This interactive tutorial presents five models of grieving and directs to further resources.

Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief Kübler-Ross’s model involves five key stages through which a person passes toward acknowledgement of the loss and restoration of life. As they are progressing, those who are grieving may move backward and then forward again throughout the stages; it is not always a linear process.

• Stage 1: Denial o Denying that the loss has occurred; experiencing shock

• Stage 2: Rage and anger o Directing anger at others or at a higher power; raging at the unfairness of

the loss

• Stage 3: Bargaining o Attempting to negotiate a restoration of the loss

• Stage 4: Depression o Feeling intense sadness related to the loss

• Stage 5: Acceptance o Acknowledging the loss and its impact on one’s life; seeking coping

strategies to adjust to the new reality Learn More Zastrow, C. H., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2019). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (11th ed.). Cengage Learning.

• p. 694 Moglia, P. (2019). Death and dying. In Magill’s medical guide (online edition). Salem Press.

Westberg Model of the Grieving Process Similar to Kübler-Ross, the Westberg model includes stages through which a person progresses in their grief. However, Westberg includes additional stages and nuances.

• Shock and denial o Upon experiencing a loss, a state of numbness occurs.

• Emotions erupt


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o Realization sets in, and the pain of the loss is expressed through the releasing of emotion (crying, wailing, whimpering, screaming).

• Anger o Anger is directed at others, the person who has died, or a higher power.

There is a sense of powerlessness.

• Illness o Sickness may arise due to the stress of the loss and associated grief.

• Panic o Overwhelming emotions and worry contribute to a feeling of panic about

one’s mental state and what the future holds.

• Guilt o Guilt surfaces as the individual reflects on what they could have done

differently to prevent the loss.

• Depression and loneliness o The individual experiences deep sadness about the loss and a sense of

isolation from others who do not understand.

• Reentry difficulties o Challenges arise as the individual attempts to re-enter the world and

resume activities.

• Hope o The individual may experience flickers of hope and progress toward


• Affirming reality o The loss is accepted, and a new life is constructed. A sense of control

returns to the individual. Learn More Zastrow, C. H., & Kirst-Ashman, K. K. (2019). Understanding human behavior and the social environment (11th ed.). Cengage Learning.

• pp. 694–695

Dual Process Model of Coping With Bereavement

According to Stroebe and Schut (2010), two simultaneous processes occur following a loss: loss-oriented coping and restoration-oriented coping. This model posits that people move back and forth, oscillating between these two processes, as they navigate their grief and build a new life.

• Loss-oriented coping o Thoughts, emotions, and actions directly related to grieving and the lost


• Restoration-oriented coping


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o Processing the new reality; incorporating new tasks, roles, or identities as a result of the death; engaging in distractions from grief; avoiding loneliness

Learn More Stroebe, M., & Schut, H. (2010). The dual process model of coping with bereavement: A decade on. Omega: Journal of Death & Dying, 61(4), 273–289.

Tonkin’s Growing Around Grief Framework

The central idea described by Tonkin (1996) is that grief is never resolved. It is ever-present, but one’s life steadily grows up and around the grief, encompassing it. In this way, individuals never “get over” a loss; rather, they “live with loss.” Learn More Tonkin, L. (1996). Growing around grief—another way of looking at grief and recovery. Bereavement Care, 15(1), 10.

Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning Worden set forth specific tasks to accomplish in order to mourn and process a loss.

• Task 1: To accept the reality of the loss o Believing that the loss has happened, on both cognitive and emotional


• Task 2: To process the pain of the grief o Feeling and acknowledging the range of emotions surrounding a loss.

Emotions may be more complex depending on the type of loss and the circumstances.

• Task 3: To adjust to a world without the deceased o Adapting externally, internally, and spiritually to the loss. External

adjustments include performing day-to-day activities for which the deceased had been responsible and assuming the deceased’s role; internal adjustments refer to the effect of the loss on one’s identity and self-esteem; and spiritual adjustments include the way in which the loss has changed one’s worldview and beliefs.

• Task 4: To find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life

o Keeping the deceased’s memory alive without becoming stuck in the past. Learn More


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Worden, J. W., & Winokuer, H. R. (2011). A task-based approach for counseling the bereaved. In R. A. Neimeyer, D. L. Harris, H. R. Winokuer, & G. F. Thornton (Eds.), Grief and bereavement in contemporary society: Bridging research and practice (pp. 57–67). Routledge.

Yousuf-Abramson, S. (2020). Worden’s tasks of mourning through a social work lens. Journal of Social Work Practice.

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