Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Grief Theory

Honestly, I had intended to explore a conversation I had the other day about the Kubler-Ross grief model but in true nerd style I decided to do a little research first.  I ended up reading a bunch of studies about a number of models that examine how individuals process grief.  I'm not writing for a college class, so I don't think I'm going to go into a critical evaluation of each model...but I think I will touch on each one.  (Keep in mind, these are just brief summaries of each theory and my own personal thoughts on each one...there is much more behind each model that could be explored if one felt so inclined.)

Kubler-Ross:  Five Stages
 * Denial - This is our way or dealing with the initial shock of grief.  It is sort of our way of just letting us deal with what we can handle at any given time.
 * Anger - This one is pretty self-explanatory.  It makes sense to get mad; mad at the person who has died, mad at those around you, mad at the doctors who couldn't fix it, mad at God.
 * Bargaining - We want to go back in time and change things. "What if I had..." or "If I..."
 * Depression - Feels like being in a dense fog without knowing what direction to turn or where to go.
 * Acceptance - This doesn't mean being "okay" with the loss, it just means that you've accepted your life without the deceased as your new reality.

People often think that you should progress through each stage neatly in order and come out at the end healed...but that's not the case at all.  Grief is messy and ugly so more likely, you find yourself bouncing back and forth between stages until you work out whatever it is you need to do at each stage.  I truly believe that eventually you can be nearly whole again, but it won't ever be quite the same.

J. William Worden:  Tasks of Mourning
 *I. To accept the reality of the loss. - This is realizing that "Yes, this is really happening to me right now.  It's not a bad dream."
*II. To process the pain of grief. - It's important to acknowledge that this hurts. It's painful. And that's just the way it is.
*III. To adjust to a world without the deceased. - This is working to cope with the voids left behind by the deceased. 
*IV.  To find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life. - Realizing that the world will go on, but working to honor and remember the deceased.

This one isn't so different from Kubler-Ross's work, but seems to repackage similar ideas.

Therese Rando: "Six R's"
 * Recognize the loss.
 * React emotionally.
 * Recollect and re-experience.
 * Relinquish.
 * Readjust and return to daily life.
 * Reinvest and re-enter the world.

Again, similar stages restated.

Stroebe and Schut: "Dual Process Model"   (By far, my favorite!)
 This model holds that people oscillate back and forth between a "loss orientation" and a "restoration orientation" when facing grief.
 * Loss Orientation - This encompasses all the "work" of grieving that is typically thought of when you think of dealing with a loss.  It's the phase during which you get to be absorbed with the loss and trying to accept the reality of it.
 * Restoration Orientation - This is all of the other stuff that comes with real life.  This is where you work on trying to regain control of a world that has changed for you and finding a return to "normal."  This is that "adjustment" period when you work on how you can still function within the world around you; the world that didn't just suffer a devastating blow.

The interesting thing about this model is that it does allow for you to bounce between the two orientations and accounts for the fact that sometimes you will be "okay" (when focusing on the restoration aspect) but other times the grief will be overwhelming (loss aspect).  This model also allows for you to "take time off" from the loss phase to deal with the necessities of daily living.

I don't honestly know if anyone else will find this helpful or not, but it helped me to be able to step back and look at my thoughts and feelings in an academic, more theoretical way (because that's just kind of how my mind works, I suppose). 


  1. Katie, I feel such a connection to you rather unexplained. I want you to know you are healing me. I know it is in no way your intention but still...there it is. I think of you daily. Your journey is helping others. Some days that won't matter to you, some days it will. Love ya.

    1. Mandy - I have to be honest...when I read your comment this morning, I sat for several minutes with tears just streaming down my face. I've hoped from the beginning that my words would be able to help others too, but I can't express how powerful it is to actually hear that from someone that I truly care about. It means so much to me to have your support and I can't thank you enough for sharing. Love ya too!