Deconstructing Models of Grief

Deconstructing Models of Grief

Throughout life, we encounter grief on many occasions. We automatically associate the word with death, but it is the general response to any kind of loss. Humans are not the only species to experience this response- elephants, lions, and primates have been documented in the wild showing human-like grief behavior after a loss of relative (Fiore, 2013; Lonsdorf, 2020). But what exactly is grief? Theories about the process of grief throughout the years suggested different stages to it.

Dr. Therese Rando is a thanatologist who came up with the 6 R's of mourning theory- Recognize, React, Recollect, Relinquish old attachments, Readjust, and Reinvest. According to her, there are six different tasks one has to finish in order to deal with their grief. Those tasks are divided into 3 stages: Avoidance, a stage in which you must recognize you truly have lost someone, Confrontation- in which you must reevaluate your secondary loses, experience the feelings that accompany those understandings, recollect your memories, and detachment from the person you lost. The last stage is Accommodation, in which you readjust to your new roles and life without your loved one, and invest your emotional energy in other people.

The Kübler-Ross model was firstly suggested as a coping process with grief of terminal illness, and not a loss of other loved ones, but it later applied to this process as well. This is probably the most well-known model, and it includes- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Yet criticism on this model suggests that people rarely follow those steps naturally, and it is very culturally and periodically biased. A similar model includes 7 stages- shock & denial, pain & guilt, anger & bargaining, depression & loneliness, mellowing & turning upward, resurrection, and acceptance & hope. This model follows the entire process from beginning to end- the point in which one returns to life.

Kubler Ross curve | Vision Psychology Brisbane

A more recent 4 stages, or phases, model was suggested by Dr J.W. Worden. This model includes the acceptance of a loss, experiencing the emotions, readjusting to the life without the person, and establishing a lasting connection with the memory of the lost person. 

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These different models have something in common- they all suggest a linear path between point A- an objective loss, to point B- an objective and complete recovery. For those of us who've been through this, these models are a bit alien, and seem to explain something quite brutal and chaotic in very clean and aesthetic terms. This is something the dual model suggested by Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut tries to answer.

According to this theory, people experience grief as a dual process, moving back and forth between loss-behavior and restorative-behavior. Loss behavior includes periods or even moments of sadness, loneliness, anger, and depression, while during the restorative periods people might be distracting themselves, actively trying to do better, or "forget" about the loss. This model suggests that experiencing the loss and the emotions it brings is exhausting and maladaptive as a linear process. The dual process is dynamic, and the oscillation between the two phases is personal and unique to each of us, according to our needs. 

dual process

At some point in our lives, we will all encounter a loss, followed by grief. The models used to explain this phenomenon can give us a roadmap to walk through our emotions, but it’s important to remember that eventually, each of us will deal with it in a way that fits our own natural rhythm.

Achva Yaler Tsuria

Achva Yaler Tsuria, is a data analyst and death positivity enthusiast, who lives in Jerusalem with her husband, two girls and a huge dog. She firmly believes that nothing makes life more rewarding than constantly contemplating death.

Fiore, R. R. (2013). What defines us: An analysis of grieving behavior in non-human primates as a potential evolutionary adaptation. University of Colorado.

Lonsdorf, E. V., Wilson, M. L., Boehm, E., Delaney-Soesman, J., Grebey, T., Murray, C., ... & Pusey, A. E. (2020). Why chimpanzees carry dead infants: an empirical assessment of existing hypotheses. Royal Society open science, 7(7), 200931.





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