06 May 2003

The four tasks of mourning

According to Worden (1999) there are four tasks of mourning.


Accepting the reality of the loss: There are two aspects of death bereaved people must accept. The first one involves accepting that the person has died and will not come back. The second one involves facing the changes of the realities of life, brought about by the loss of a loved one.

Experiencing the pain of grief: Everyone who loses someone they love experiences the pain of grief. Sometimes society pressurises people who are in mourning to get on with their lives and not be preoccupied with the loss. This results in the bereaved feeling lonely, with no one to share the experiences - often complicating the grieving process. It is for this reason that the mental health provider must offer the bereaved a space to share their grief and to feel the pain.

Adjusting to an environment in which the deceased is missing: The bereaved can be assisted to living without the deceased person and to make decisions independently.

Emotionally relocating the loved one: The bereaved has to find a new place in his or her life for their lost loved one - a place that will allow him or her to move forward with life and form new relationships.

(by Worden, 1999)


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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