Grief and Loss - Dual Processing Model

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It is a heartbreaking reality, that at some stage in our life, we will experience the death of a loved one. The response to this loss can include; grieving, crying, thinking about your loved one, and that strong desire to curl up into a ball and never leave the house.

Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut identify ways to process your grief in "The Dual Process Model of Coping with Bereavement: A Decade On". These processes can best be explained as a means of coping with grief or loss by helping you find the balance between facing the reality of your loss and learning to live your life, after experiencing loss. This has be likened to a roller coaster and is perfectly normal – an emotional roller coaster of a both accepting and confronting your grief.

The Dual Process Model describes two very different ways of dealing with your grief; loss-oriented and restoration-oriented. In a nutshell, as you grieve, you will switch, or ‘oscillate’, between these two different modes (hence the name....dual process).

Okay, so now we've identified what the two processes are; how can we learn more about them?

Lets start with Restoration-oriented, shall we?

The restoration-oriented process includes learning “skills”, such as taking on tasks your loved one once did (such a the family finances or the everyday chores). During the restoration-oriented stage, you are able to focus on day-to-day tasks and experience temporary relief from your loss. This a perfectly normal way of coping with grief as it is a way to ease our mind from the pain you are experiencing.....if only for a few minutes so we can get our daily tasks done. Thus being called the restoration phase; because you are trying to restore order and normality to your life.

Then there is the loss-oriented process:

The loss-oriented process are the things that make you think about your loved one and their death. These 'stressors' can be thoughts, feelings, actions or events that make you focus on your grief and pain - things like thinking about how much you miss your loved one, looking at old photos, or a particular memory. The loss-oriented process can bring up all of the emotions, such as sadness, loneliness or possibly anger.

Now, as I mentioned earlier in this blog, you can move back and forth between these two processes – this is called 'oscillation'.

According to Stroebe and Schut, you should embrace this 'oscillation', as you move in and out of grief and tackle the reality of the step at a time.

You may have already been moving between these two phases without even knowing you were doing it....for example, maybe in the morning are were listening to the radio and for a while you are distracted with listening to the story the announcers are telling on-air (restoration-oriented), then they play a song that sparks a memory of your loved one, which makes you cry (loss-oriented). After your tears subside, you go back to occupying your mind with a task (cleaning, gardening, or even watching television) and that shifts the focus from your pain (back to restoration-oriented).

Below is an image that will help identify the process and how you can switch between the two..

image courtesy of research

image courtesy of research

There is no hard and fast rule with grieving, all you can do is take as much time as you need and be gentle with yourself; allow yourself to experience both forms of the dual process model, as it will help you maintain emotional balance.