• Emily Page Lockamy

Moving Beyond the 5 Stages of Grief

Updated: Jun 21, 2018

After suffering a loss, many people immediately call to mind the five stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This framework was introduced in 1969 by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her widely influential book, On Death and Dying. But apparently, the model was meant to describe the stages of dying, not the stages of grief.

Since then, many other models have been created to help people understand how grief works. Some of the most important changes reflected in the more recent frameworks are that grief is not a linear process, everyone grieves differently, and there is no clear ending to grief.

Below are four contemporary grief processing models that I'd like to share with you. These tools of conceptualizing and working through grief can be helpful for those coping with loss or for therapists helping the bereaved:

1. The 4 Tasks of Grief

Grief counseling expert, William Worden, suggests that there are four tasks a grieving person must accomplish, in no specific order, for healing to occur. These tasks, which he points out can be revisited during the process, are as follows:

2. The 6 Needs of Mourning

Grief counselor and educator, Alan Wolfelt, created a very similar series of steps that help people move forward after loss. He advises mourners to think of the following six steps as a "to-do list," to address slowly over time.

  1. Acknowledge the reality of the death

  2. Embrace the pain of the loss

  3. Remember the person who died

  4. Develop a new self-identity

  5. Search for meaning

  6. Receive ongoing support from others

3. The Dual Process Model of Grief

Developed by Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut, The Dual Process Model of Grief maintains that healthy grieving is a dynamic process wherein an individual oscillates between loss-oriented and restoration-oriented coping (e.g., between avoiding and confronting the loss).

4. Growing Around Grief

Finally, in what may be my favorite theory of all, Grief Counselor, Lois Tonkin, proposes that maybe grief doesn't shrink over time, but people's lives grow around it, enabling them to recover. The shaded circle in the visual below represents grief, while the larger circle represents the other parts of life growing around it. In applying the model to a client, Tonkin writes, "There were times, anniversaries or moments which reminded her of her child, when she operated entirely from out of the shaded circle in her life and her grief felt just as intense as it ever had. But, increasingly, she was able to experience life in the larger circle."

Which model of grief most resonates with you? What other frameworks have you read about, or created yourself?


© 2018 by Emily Page Lockamy.