Internal Code: 1IECF
In this module we look at Worden’s ‘four tasks for mourning’ in some detail. We also spend some time thinking about the mediators of mourning. Much of the content for this module comes from our class text (Worden, 2009 – chapters 2 and 3).
A close look at Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning & Mediators of Mourning
Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning
Worden’s tasks of mourning have grown out of the work of earlier foundational loss and grief thinkers (Lindemann, Bowlby, Parkes). Depending on a wide range of circumstances and situations, some people may work through these ‘tasks’ in a more straightforward way than others. The basic idea that ‘grief work’ and the emotional impact of the loss cannot be addressed until the person has accepted the loss has occurred, is common to a number of theorists.
Task I : Accepting the reality of the loss
The first task within the grieving process is to accept that a loss has occurred. While acceptance of the reality of the loss fosters pain, suffering and other painful emotions, to deny the loss has occurred can result in complicated grief and pathological tendencies. Denying the meaning of the loss “I don’t miss her”, removing all memories or going about daily activities such as setting a place at the dinner table for the deceased serves as a protective mechanism against reality in the hope that the person will miraculously come back.
Understanding and accepting the loss takes time emotionally “don’t do this to me!”, psychologically, and intellectually “is he really gone?”. This critical stage is often challenging for practitioners because the emotions associated with completing this task can impede on the rapport and relationship between the practitioner and client, and the effectiveness of intervention. The client may feel the practitioner is too harsh “you set the table every night hoping she’ll come home, yet she died four years ago”, or may feel the practitioner thinks they have made significant progress when they feel they have not “I’m doing all these things but I don’t feel any happier”.
Instances and practices which assist the bereaved individual to come to terms with the reality of the loss include mourning/symbolic rituals i.e. the funeral, viewing the body, a memorial place, objects of tribute towards the deceased, a strong supportive network, and spirituality. Individuals who believe in an afterlife of some sort (religious or spiritual) tend to accept the loss quicker than those who believe death is the ultimate separation and end. The belief that one will meet with the deceased again or that the deceased will continue to live (through reincarnation, heaven etc) provides the comfort that the passing is not the ultimate end.
Task II : To process the pain of grief
The intensity and experience of pain varies for individuals, however a sense of pain is experienced nonetheless. It is necessary these emotional, psychological, and physical feelings of pain are addressed. The circumstances surrounding the death (unexpected, premature death, unconventional death; murder, suicide) also impact on the experiences and forms of pain, hurt and sadness. Other emotions within this task are also likely to be experienced; anger, disappointment, guilt, confusion, desire for revenge (particularly if the deceased is very young or in the case of murder).
Societies may disapprove of individuals expressing deep emotions, which can be viewed as selfish, incompetent, weak, and unhealthy.
It is crucial for grieving individual to be able to work through the various feelings associated with their grief. Often surrounding friends and family inform the individual their feelings such as guilt and disappointment are inadequate, because they were not responsible for the death. Clients should be provided with the opportunity to explore such feelings rather than ignore them.
Task III : To adjust to a world without the deceased
Worden explains there are three sets of adjustments required within this task: 1. external adjustments, 2. internal adjustments, and 3. spiritual adjustments.
Often the loss of an individual also results in a loss of everything that person did (managing finances, household chores etc). Roles change, and the bereaved individual needs to adjust to a new external environment and often assume these responsibilities and tasks.
Death effects individuals’ self-identity (through altered roles, and relationship ties i.e. now a widower), self-definition (no longer a father), and self-esteem. People often question their identity and their purpose in life. We cannot lose something or someone of importance without losing a sense of who we are. Part of the grieving process also involves letting go of part of our identity.
Some deaths challenge individuals’ spiritual beliefs, while others validate and fit well with our assumptions. This centers on Parkes description of how we change our assumptive worlds after facing a loss.
Task IV : To find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking on a new life
Within Freud’s concept of mourning; completion of the grieving process entailed that individuals replace the energy invested in the lost object with a new object or relationship. Individuals have since expressed the need and potential to hold on to a deceased individual in a different way to enable them to move forward in their life, rather than let go of the person completely.
Within this task individuals strive to integrate the deceased person within their life in a new and meaningful way. It is important to acknowledge that for some people they never find a substitute for their loss (nor may want to). The need for a continuing connection with the deceased person in a way which permits the individual to move beyond the stages of mourning, and to go on living effectively is central within this final task.
As a practitioner, the ultimate goal is to assist the client to maintain a meaningful connection and an appropriate personal place for the deceased within their life which permits them to move along in their own life course and make room for other significant objects or individuals.
Grieving is a fluid process and its tasks are not limited to linear progression. These tasks may be revisited at numerous times during the life course of the bereaved individual, and individuals may revert back to the previous tasks at any point. There is no correct way to grieve, nor is there one way to work through grief. The task of grief work can he hindered by numerous events or aspects of individuals’ lives, the life of the deceased, and societal norms and expectations. These include:
The Mourning Process – Mediators of Mourning
Chapter 3 of the text by Worden provides details of the seven mediators of mourning. Please refer to the text and the lecture for details.
Module Learning Activity
Complete the following learning activity.
Think about Worden’s four tasks of mourning. What is your view of this framework? Do you think the idea of ‘tasks’ is useful in loss and grief practice? What or why not?
Your response should be a maximum of 350 words, (excluding references).
Theoretical underpinning is essential within your responses. You must in-text reference at least three academic sources (from this or other module reading lists or other academic sources).
You may write in the first person in this piece of academic writing.
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