What part of mourning is necessary?

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J. William Worden in his book Grief Counseling & Grief Therapy lists “The Four Tasks Of Mourning.”

Task 1: To accept the reality of the loss. When someone dies, there is always the unreal sense that what just happened did NOT just happen. So, the first task of grieving is to come face to face with the reality that your loved one is dead and not coming back. The CHRISTIAN has an advantage here in that they believe their loved one would not choose to come back — even if they could! The Christian truly believes their loved one has gone to a better place.

Denying the fact of someone’s demise may vary from a slight recognition of someone they see on the street who reminds them of the way their loved one looked — all the way to a full-blown delusional truth (that their deceased loved one is walking back through the door any minute.) 

Some people deny that death is irreversible and by their words and deeds strive to keep the hope alive that the dead one will eventually return. Those who believe the Bible, do believe their loved one who died in the Lord will return — but NOT to live on this earth again. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Task 2: To work through the pain of grief. People experience physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Some people may try to make others avoid or suppress this pain by rushing the griever through the process or shaming them because they are “just feeling sorry for themselves.” I believe it is impossible to lose fellowship with someone you have been deeply attached to without experiencing a level of pain. Accept it and expect it.

People can short-circuit Task 2 in any number of ways, the most obvious way is to cut off their feelings and deny that pain is present. In the medical world, often a physical pain scale is used like, “With zero being no pain and ten being the worst pain you have ever experienced, on a scale of 0 to 10, what would be your level of physical pain today?” I believe our emotional pain can be similarly ranked as  our physical pain levels!

Task 3: We must adjust to a new environment where the deceased is missing. This makes the holiday gatherings especially hard, and perhaps makes church gatherings reminiscent of the times we spent in that place together. 

Many survivors resent having to develop new skills and take on roles that were formerly performed by their partners now deceased. The fact that our loved one is missing also reminds us of our own mortality or at least causes a loss in one’s self-esteem. Over time, however, survivors carry on the necessary tasks and learn new ways of dealing with the world.

Task 4: To move on with life. We are all at different emotional places and working through grief at different speeds. Families would do well to recognize this fact and support one another’s grief work and process of recovery, even if they don’t fully understand it.

For many people, this task is the most difficult one to accomplish. This task also seems to cause people to be the most judgmental of others. Asking “When is grieving finished?” is a lot like asking “How high is up?” or “What exists outside of me and my world?”

Expect the initial basic recovery from grief to last one to two years and get the counseling help that you need for grief recovery that stalls in a time frame longer than that.

Doug Greenway

Doug Greenway

These blog articles are written by the retired minister and former educator and counselor, Doug Greenway. He'd love to hear from you with your comments, questions, or suggestions for future topics. You may reach Doug at doug_greenway@yahoo.com.

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