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Navigate the pain and disorientation of death

The death of a loved one can be one of the most disruptive and shattering experiences of our lives. Whether it's sudden and unexpected, or a long-anticipated process, the person that has been a familiar presence is no longer here. Grief is a painful and confusing process with a wide range of emotions, from total numbness and disbelief to overwhelming depression and a felt loss of safety in the world. Sometimes it can feel like grief will never end, as overwhelming emotions seemingly emerge at any time, whether we want them to or not. It is an intensely personal journey that can look different for everyone.


When working with grief, I resonate with J. William Worden's model of mourning. Worden outlines 4 tasks of mourning that are essential to moving forward. Unlike other models of grief, these tasks suggest that grief is not simply a passive process, but something you can actively participate in and move through. Although there is an implied order to these tasks, it is not necessary to "finish" one task before moving on to another. You may be working on them out of order or even all at once. They are merely guideposts through the process.

Following is a brief outline of the 4 tasks of mourning:

Task I: Accept the Reality of the Loss

  • Coming to terms with the reality that the person is dead, that they are gone and will not return.

  • Attending to denial that can involve the facts of the loss, the meaning of the loss, or the irreversibility of the loss.

Task II: Process the Pain of Grief

  • Experiencing the sadness, anxiety, anger, guilt, depression, or loneliness that can accompany loss.

Task III: Adjust to a World Without the Deceased

  • Adjusting to how the death affects your everyday functioning in the world, how it affects your sense of self, and how it affects your beliefs, values, and assumptions about the world.

Task IV: Find a Way to Remember the Deceased While Embarking on the Rest of One's Journey Through Life

  • Finding an appropriate place for the deceased in your emotional life that will enable you to go on living effectively in the world.

Sometimes grief gets complicated. The person you have lost may also be a perpetrator of significant harm or abuse. The feelings that arise are not just about the loss, but about the trauma you've endured and the seeming incompatibility of love and injustice. Together we will sit with the tension, sort through conflicting feelings, and contend with any internal judgements that arise regarding your varied emotional response.


Grief is not always related to the death of a loved one. Moving, changing jobs, starting school, ending a relationship, all of these experiences deal with loss. Our lives change, and with that change, we have to adjust to a new reality. It's healthy and important to mark times of change and continually reflect on the ways our lives are evolving. It helps us adjust and adapt to a future that's always in flux.

See the services page for a detailed description of my evidence-based approach to therapy.

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