The widely-recognized 5 Stages of Grief do not always accurately describe or help someone coping with an intense loss. It’s rarely experienced in a straight line, and there’s a myriad of emotions that aren’t addressed at all.
The Dual Process Model of coping with grief describes when the bereaved person continually moves back and forth between two states of being:
Loss: thinking about and processing your grief
Restoration: focusing on your everyday life
In the loss, or confrontation stage, you may feel despair, anger, and loneliness. It may include pleasurable reminiscing about your loved one, and painful longing.
In the restoration, or avoidance stage, you temporarily “forget” about the pain, and deal with day-to-day activities. These distractions might include going to work or cleaning the house, watching a tv show or reading a book. You may feel anxiety and fear as you’re adjusting to life without your loved one, and you may also feel relief and pride in accomplishing tasks or learning a new skill.
Grief is a shock to our hearts, minds, and bodies, and managing it is exhausting. By consciously (or unconsciously) thinking about and doing other things, we can give ourselves a much-needed break, helping us more effectively cope with the loss.
It’s a dynamic process that happens over and over again, and allows us to tackle the reality of our loss in more manageable, “bite size” pieces.