Understanding the Grief Process: A First Step to Helping Bereaved Clients

By Oates, Martha | TCA Journal, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Understanding the Grief Process: A First Step to Helping Bereaved Clients


Oates, Martha, TCA Journal


Grief is a normal and natural response to any significant loss, especially the death of a loved one or close friend. The grieving process is, however, often misunderstood and/or neglected by both the bereaved and professional helpers. Counselors and family therapists need a framework for understanding the grief process to guide their interventions. The purpose of this article is to describe a framework based on the work of Thresese Rando, a noted grief therapist.

Many of the concerns individuals bring to counseling involve the loss of some thing or some person of value. Tatelbaum (1984) noted that "the majority of clients come. . . for the first time because of an earlier grief that is now affecting their lives" (p. 53). Others who do not seek professional help are also affected (Moriarty, 1983). In his work with elementary children who were acting out in violent ways, Barrett (2000) found that most had experienced early, significant losses that had not been addressed. These children and their grieving had been overlooked. It is important, therefore, that mental health professionals in all work settings understand the grief process. Very few colleges and universities, however, offer a grief course in their preparation programs for counselors or family therapists. Professional helpers who want to learn about grief and mourning must educate themselves by attending workshops or reading books and articles on the subject. This article and the references cited provide information to assist professionals in becoming more effective with clients who have grief issues. (For other resources counselors can search the web for "grief books.")

Dr. Therese Rando, a clinical psychologist, researcher, and grief therapist, well-published with regards to the grief process and therapeutic interventions, developed the framework presented here (1984; 1986a; 1986b; 1988; 1993). This framework includes three phases of mourning - Avoidance, Confrontation, and Accommodation. Within these three phases are six "R" processes of mourning and related tasks (see Figure 1).

Although this framework reflects the view of grieving held today by many mental health professionals in the United States, it should be noted that some researchers (Horacek, 1995; Neimeyer, 2001; Stroebe, Stroebe, & Hansson, 1993) have questioned the validity of the "grief work hypothesis" implicit in the processes and tasks of mourning. Others (Crenshaw, 1990; Kalish & Reynolds, 1981) noted differences in grief responses based on one's cultural, generational, and ethnic background which may vary from those described below. It is beyond the scope of this article to present the many different approaches to grief counseling considered helpful in all circumstances. Readers are encouraged to consult the works cited for a fuller treatment of this subject.

The Phases of Mourning

The Avoidance Phase

The avoidance phase begins when one learns about the death. The human psyche goes into emotional shock, and the mourner may feel confused, disoriented, dazed, or bewildered and wonder if what he is experiencing is normal (Rando, 1988; Wolfelt, 1982). The bereaved often have physical reactions common to bodily shock including weakness, trembling, and exhaustion (Rando, 1993; Tatelbaum, 1984). The emotional shock one feels and the physical manifestations vary from acute to mild. Following an unexpected (Doka, 1996) or violent (Redmond, 1989) death, the mourner's reactions may be acute, especially if the deceased was one's spouse or child (Bernstein, 1997; Horacek, 1995). However, if the death was expected, possibly following a long illness, shock reactions may be mild or nonexistent.

As the reality of what has happened emerges and the shock and numbness wear off, the mourner may move into denial (Fitzgerald, 1992; Kubler-Ross, 1982; Rando, 1993). Denial is both natural and therapeutic and acts as a buffer that allows one to absorb over time the terrible reality of the event. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Understanding the Grief Process: A First Step to Helping Bereaved Clients
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.