Models and Theories

What are models of grief?

Models (theories) of grief have been helpful  in understanding different reactions which may present during the journey through grief. The most familiar models of grief include Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief and William Worden’s Four Basic Tasks of Mourning and Rando’s 6 R’s of mourning. These models (theories) suggest stages, tasks or processes which all share a very linear structure.

Other well-known models ot theories of grief include the Dual Process Model,  Tonkins’ ‘Growing Around Grief’ and in recent years newer theoeries include those which look to explain how people find meaning after a loss and continuing bonds with the person who has died.



To recover from grief you must express grief and detach emotionally from the deceased


Lindemann Grief Work

  1. Emancipation from bondage to the deceased
  2. Readjustment to a new environment
  3. Formation of new relationships


Bowlby’s Four Stages

1.Shock & Numbness

2.Yearning & Searching

3.Despair & Disorganisation

4.Reorganisation & Recovery


Kübler-Ross Five Stages of Grief

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance


Rando’s 6 R’s of Mourning

1.Recognition of the loss

2.React to the separation

3.Recollect  and re-experience the deceased

4.Relinquish old attachment

5.Readjust to a new world

6.Reinvest emotional energy


Worden’s Tasks of Mourning

1.To accept the reality of the loss

2.To process the pain of grief

3.To adjust to the world without the deceased

4.To find an enduring connection with the deceased while starting a new life


Dual Process Model of Bereavement

Oscillate between loss-related stressors and life-related stressors. Important to take a break from your grief


Klass, Silverman, & Nickman Continuing Bonds Theory

This model model is based on the mourner continuing bonds with the deceased. The resolution of grief involves a continuing bond that the survivor maintains with the deceased.

Shifting the Grief Paradigm

Tonkin’s Growing Around Grief Theory

Growing around grief is a model created by grief counsellor Lois Tonkin. Tonkin came up with the model after speaking to a client about the death of their child. At first, the woman noted that at first grief had consumed her totally and filled every part of her life. She drew a picture with a circle to represent her life and shading to indicate her grief. It was all consuming.

She had thought that as time went by the grief would shrink and become a much smaller part of her life and who she is. But what happened was different. The grief stayed just as big, but her life grew around it. There were times where she felt the grief as intensely as when her child first died, but there were other times where she felt she lived her life in the space outside the circle.

Continuing Bonds – a grief concept that you should know more about

In 1996, Klass, Silverman and Nickman described a newer grief concept in their book  Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of Grief. Their work questioned linear models of grief that suggests moving from one stage to the next or following a set of tasks or processes which would lead to acceptance, detachment and moving on from the loss and eventually closure. Klass and colleagues disagreed with this notion and suggested a paradigm shift from the accepted grief literature .

In an article A Grief Concept You Should Care About: Continuing Bonds written by Eleanor Hayley on the “What’s Your Grief” website she summarises the continuing bonds model as follows:

“……under this model, when your loved one dies grief isn’t about working through a linear process that ends with ‘acceptance’ or a ‘new life’, where you have moved on or compartmentalized your loved one’s memory.  Rather, when a loved one dies you slowly find ways to adjust and redefine your relationship with that person, allowing for a continued bond with that person that will endure, in different ways and to varying degrees, throughout your life.   This relationship is not unhealthy, nor does it mean you are not grieving in a normal way.  Instead, the continuing bonds theory suggests that this is not only normal and healthy, but that an important part of grief is continuing ties to loved ones in this way.   Rather than assuming detachment as a normal grief response, continuing bonds considers natural human attachment even in death.”

She goes on to describe four reason why its okay for the grieving person to want to continue their bond with their loved one namely:

  1. Continuing bonds acknowledges that grief is ongoing.
  2. Continuing bonds says that it’s normal to stay connected with a loved one.
  3. Continuing bonds may describe many of the grief-related behaviors.
  4. Continuing bonds says that not only are these behaviors normal, but they may help cope with grief.

To read a detailed breakdown of these reasons please click on the link above to find the full article.