AAA of Bereavement

Three Emotional Phases & Six “R”s of Grief and Mourning

Therese Rando and colleagues created a theory that suggests we move through processes in our mourning (bereavement).  When we “process” emotions, there can be a natural flow to recognizing what we feel, understanding what our feelings mean, and then incorporating those feelings into our daily functioning in (hopefully) healthy ways.  Rando (et al.) suggested there are three emotional phases and six processes within those phases.  Caring Choices embellishes Rando’s processes below with our “AAA” concept which takes a softer approach to the emotional phases.   Our use of the word “death” can be expanded to consider any “loss” that did not result in death (i.e., divorce, military deployment, etc.) that may cause feelings of mourning.

Avoidance Phase                 

1)      Recognize the loss:  this means acknowledging the death and understanding the death.   With some deaths, we may never fully understand the cause (i.e. suicide, undiagnosed medical condition).  Although we may not have all the answers about the nature of the death, we can still recognize and acknowledge our feelings of loss related to the death.  Acknowledging does not yet mean that we emotionally accept the death.

Confrontation Phase                   

2)      React to the separation:  this process involves experiencing emotions and expressing reactions to the death.  In this process, we recognize and incorporate secondary losses (learning minor home repairs, cooking for myself, managing finances, losing friendships that were connected to being a couple, etc.).

3)      Recollect and re-experience the deceased and the relationship: this requires reviewing and remembering the deceased, as well as reminiscing and perhaps re-experiencing feelings.  Recollections may be positive or negative depending on the nature of the relationship.  It is important that we accept the relationship and experiences as they were, without judgment, and perhaps with forgiveness of the deceased and/or ourselves.

4)      Relinquish old attachments to the deceased and the old “assumptive world.”  Assumptive world is our core beliefs that orient and ground us in life.  When someone we love dies, this foundation may be shattered.  It may be necessary for us to re-examine our core beliefs and determine how our core beliefs will be restructured in our now different life.

Accommodation Phase                                   

5)      Readjust to move forward in your new life:  this means developing a new relationship to the person who died, adopting new ways of being in the world in your new role(s), and establishing a new identity.   This does not mean forgetting.

6)      Reinvest.  This means putting emotional energy into new people, experiences, hobbies, goals, etc.  We absorb the death into our lives and incorporate the loss and its meaning as we attempt to move forward in forming new relationships and revitalizing ourselves.  It means learning to appreciate the “new” with gratitude for the past.  It also means re-investing in yourself, in your needs, and in your self-care.

©2019 Caring Choices