The Tasks of Grief

Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart (John Adams).  Part of learning to dance with adversity and find hope in painful circumstances is to have a framework to help you deal with the losses that come into our lives (whether they be as traumatic as a death or as upsetting as a motorcycle accident).

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The four tasks of grief (developed by William Worden) provide a framework and supplement the grief cycle with further thoughts to help frame the experiences you will have to continue moving and growing through a season of grief and loss to a place of healthy recovery.

Unpacking the Four Tasks of Grief

1.    Accept the reality of the loss

The task as you begin to grieve is to come to terms with the fact that life as you knew it is over.  Whether that be with a person who is now gone or with the activities and things you enjoyed that are no longer be available for you.  I had to put my work plans on hold, let go of running, and by choice give up the motorcycle.  All these losses loomed large in the beginning but eventually were relinquished and accepted as our new reality. 

He that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it (Turkish Proverb).

2.    Experience the pain of grief

Grieving is an emotional roller coaster ride.  The key here is to “experience” the pain of grief.  Not just think about it, but to go down into the emotional quagmire of anger, loneliness, depression, frustration, disappointment, sadness which is the only way “through” your grief.  If we try to avoid these emotions or push them down, we will only delay the pain and we will see them resurface in unhealthy ways.

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear (CS Lewis). 

3.    Adjust to the new environment

This task is all about getting used to your new reality without whatever or whoever you have lost.  You may have more responsibility, less mobility, fewer options, a change in status in some of your relationships.  Coming to terms with these realities and adjusting practically to what you now have to work with takes place at this stage. I’ve adjusted to being alone at home in my recliner Monday to Friday and have adjusted to activities I can do from that chair that work.

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how (James Russell Lowell).

4.  Reinvest energy in life

The task here is about leaning into new activities and relationships that fit with your new reality.  It’s learning to love and relate to new people, find purpose in your adjusted activities and put value on the things you have discovered have new meaning for you.  It’s giving yourself permission to laugh and live again.  

The other day, the tears I shed were tears of joy when I thought about the quality friendships I now have and how I’m encouraging people I haven’t even met! That’s progress!

 One joy shatters a hundred griefs (Chinese Proverb).

A final thought

Time goes on, and your life is still there, and you have to live it. After a while you remember the good things more often than the bad. Then, gradually, the empty silent parts of you fill up with sounds of talking and laughter again, and the jagged edges of sadness are softened by memories (Lois Lowry).

What are you grieving the loss of?  Where are you in the tasks of grief and what’s next?

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About Cam Taylor

I'm help people live inspired, focused and tenacious lives. I work as a coach, facilitator, author, and speaker.
This entry was posted in Adversity, Emotions, Grief cycle, grieving, Growth, healing, purpose, suffering, tears and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Tasks of Grief

  1. Robin says:

    Thanks Cam: Just in time for me to pass on to my close friends wife.
    Prayers & Peace.
    Robin

  2. Linda Hilderman says:

    Cam, I have been reading and learning from your blogs. They are poignant and many of them have touched my heart. I especially enjoyed these insights on the grief experience. It is a lonely time of getting to know your own inner self and learning to rely on God for His strength and healing…… it is quite the process, designed by a loving God who patiently teaches us what we need most each day.
    I had a short visit with your folks at Gary Cornish’s funeral. Take care… you remain in my thoughts and prayers, Linda

    • Cam Taylor says:

      Thanks Linda for your thoughts and sharing the specifics growth you’ve experienced from reading this blog. Grieving people are all around us but how grateful to know a pathway has been prepared by a loving God to walk us through that journey. So good to hear from you!

  3. Hi there! I really enjoy your blog and have nominated it for the ” Inspiring Blog” Award! If you decide to accept the award, please visit http://tinylessonsblog.com/2012/08/24/omg-three-awards-thank-you/
    Best, Tiny

  4. Shirley Hull says:

    Cam, That is really good. I will send it on to friends I know who are grieving but have not given themselves permission to grieve. I had not thought that it is something that needs to be worked through in order to come out on the other side. Thank you for being willing to be vulnerable, for walking through your grief with us, so that we will be the better persons. Love, Aunt Shirley

    • Cam Taylor says:

      Thanks Aunt Shirley for joining the conversation and sending this post on. I find these tasks of grief add a perspective I was missing and a helpful pathway to travel. I never imagined going into this recovery journey that I’d be dealing with so much loss & grief but it’s been so true. The upside had been the learning, growth & opportunity to help others with their losses. Who would have known?

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