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The Different Tasks of Mourning

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What are the different tasks of mourning? To understand them, we need to take a closer look at grief itself. What exactly is grief? And how can we learn to live with it in the best possible way?

Grief is a completely natural, healthy, acute hurt and a normal reaction that accompanies our losses. When we grieve, there is often no timetable for our feelings of pain and other emotions. Grief follows its own course. The grieving process is frequently accompanied by feelings of being overwhelmed, and it is not possible to avoid that suffering altogether. 

There may also be a belief that "more" grieving is better, or that there should be a better or right way to grieve. This can prolong the process and make it harder to grieve.

"Grief is not a disorder, an illness, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve." Earl Grollman

J. W. Worden, a psychology professor, and therapist, identified four tasks in the process of griefing and gave this model an acronym called "Tear." Grief is not a journey that is linear but tends to come in waves. He created the four tasks to help integrate the experience of grief. Each of these tasks doesn´t have to be completed in a linear way but can accompany you on the journey of grief and help you to understand what is happening and how to deal with it.

What does "Tear" mean?

T: To Accept the reality of loss.

Denial is often one of the first coping strategies we use to protect our emotional world from loss. How can it be that the loved one who was there only yesterday is not there anymore? Facing this new truth and change in life is a critical part of beginning your grief journey.

Sometimes we cannot find answers to the question that often comes up first, 'why': Why did it happen so quickly? Why right now? Why did my loved one die? Could we have done something to have changed what happened?

Acknowledge the importance of what you have lost. Some people minimize their grief in hopes that it will make it easier to accept the loss, but it is important to remember how much this person meant to you. Coming to terms with this and building a good supporting system can be especially beneficial in the first days and weeks that follow. It can be helpful to attend rituals and activities after the death of a loved one. This can support us in accepting that our loved one is no longer there physically.

E: Experiencing and acknowledging the pain of loss.

This task requires us to deal with the grief and pain that accompanies it. Each of us grieves differently. Many of us may never have learned to deal with the overwhelm of emotions, and you may be actively suppressing or avoiding the tension you feel within. Often, the overwhelm is compounded by the stress of worrying about those around us because we want others to know we are okay and not be a burden to them. However,when we ignore our feelings, they always circle back to us in one way or another. It is natural for all of us to feel sadness, regret, despair, shame, numbness, longing, anger, rage, and fear. This could make it necessary to seek help by talking to a trusted person or seeking out counseling so that you are not alone and have support during this time.

A: Adjusting to a new environment without the loved one.

Adjusting to life without the loved one can be very difficult. In some cases it may even cause feelings of guilt because we feel like we betray the deceased by beginning to adjust. This process often depends on the relationship we had with the person, it varies in intensity for everyone, and it also affects your own life. You may need to find new ways and relearn how to do certain things in your life that you used to share with your loved one. It is only natural that this is difficult and takes time, so try to be compassionate and patient with yourself. 

R: Reinvest in the life you are living now after the loss.

Worden says you should learn to reinvest in the life you have now after the loss, while still keeping the loved one close and keeping the good memories in your heart. If you feel you have done well with the tasks and are ready to move on from the reality you are in now, it may be helpful to feel enjoyment again. It might be beneficial to find pleasure and joy in your life again, and to make new connections, anything that helps you bring meaning to your life.

"Grief is itself a medicine." William Cowper

If you find yourself grieving and feel that having someone to talk to and accompany you could help, we would like to encourage you to contact us in the chat in case your employer is a partner of Soulchat.

Author: Nallely Courtney


Bonanno, G.A., Malgaroli, M. (2020). Trajectories of grief: Comparing symptoms from the DSM-5 and ICD-11 diagnoses. Depression and anxiety, 37(1), 17–25.

Worden, J. W. (1991). Grief counselling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner (2nd edition). London: Springer.