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Bereavement Support Services

Phases and Stages of Grieving

Children on swing

Another more current understanding of bereavement, first developed by Dr. J.W. Worden in the early 1980s, identifies grief not as a succession of phases through which a person passes with little or no control, but as a series of four tasks to adapt to one’s loss and changed life.6 These include:

Task 1: “To Accept The Reality Of The Death”

The bereaved parent understands that the death has occurred and that it is irreversible.

Task 2: “To Work Through The Pain Of Grief”

Grief brings with it many strong and mixed feelings such as pain, anger, guilt and sadness, and parents may try to avoid these intense feelings.

Task 3: “To Adjust To Everyday Life Without The Deceased”

Caring for a child is a very time-consuming process and after a loss, parents and care givers are suddenly forced into inactivity and must restructure their schedules and responsibilities.

Task 4: “Moving On In Life While Staying Connected With The Deceased”

Parents adapt to their loss and find a new “normal” which includes creating a changed relationship with the deceased. Families report that “resolution” and “acceptance” are inaccurate expectations and that integration of the loss is more appropriate. Parents may never accept the loss but will integrate the loss into their life. Parents report developing an ongoing relationship with their child through their memories and mental life.