For as universal as grief is, it’s something that is still little understood. We will all grieve and mourn a loss at some point in our life. That is, unfortunately, certain. But what’s uncertain is how we will grieve. It’s uncertain how we will mourn. And it’s uncertain how we will cope as we make our own journey through our grief and try to find a path toward healing.
Despite the uncertainty, there have been attempts to identify and define certain aspects of grief. In this ongoing series, we will explore the different theories that try to define grief. In this segment, we’ll cover Rando’s Six R Process of Mourning. To see part two of our series, which discusses Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning, click here. For part one, about the Kübler-Ross Model of grief, click here.
It’s important to remember that these theories are just that — theories. In reality, grief isn’t as simple as a list of steps or stages, and everyone grieves in their own unique way.
Dr. Therese Rando
Dr. Therese Rando is the Clinical Director at the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss. Since 1970, Dr. Rando has worked in grief research, provided therapy for the bereaved, and authored several books on loss, grief, and death.
It was her extensive research and experience helping the bereaved that led Dr. Rando to develop her own grief model, the Six R’s. It’s similar to Worden’s four tasks model in that the six R’s aren’t stages of grief. Instead, they should be seen as different emotional states, or tasks, that a grieving person will feel as they go through their grief journey.
Six R’s of Mourning
Dr. Rando defines mourning as six distinct states (the six R’s). She then groups each state into three emotional categories. The six R’s are:
- Recognize the loss
- React to the separation
- Recollect and re-experience
- Relinquish old attachments
The three emotional categories are:
- Avoidance Phase
- Confrontation Phase
- Accommodation Phase
Let’s break down each of Rando’s R’s and the emotional states involved.
The avoidance phase has one task — recognize the loss. This is the early part of mourning where we must accept the reality of a loss. Rando suggests that until we complete the first R, where we recognize and acknowledge death has occurred, we’ll remain in this phase of emotional avoidance.
Once we are ready to accept the fact that our loved one has passed, we move into what Rando calls the confrontation phase.
The confrontation phase consists of dealing with our grief and finding ways to in which we can express the complex set of emotions we feel. During this phase, there are three tasks.
We must react to the separation. This process means we will react to our emotions, as well as the changes created by our loss. These changes are known as secondary losses. For example, a secondary loss includes the loss of a sense of security, identity, or traditions and routines. Dr. Rando describes this task of reacting as how we “feel, identify, accept, and give some form of expression to all the psychological reactions to the loss.”
During the confrontation phase, we also recollect and re-experience our relationship with the deceased. This process involves reviewing memories and experiences shared with a loved one. For example, it could be special places visited together, or even the small day-to-day moments shared together. As we go through this recollection phase, these memories become a critical part of how we continue our relationship with a loved one after they are gone.
The last R in the confrontation phase involves relinquishing old attachments. This task is a long process. It involves accepting that our old life will never be the same after the loss, and we start processing the impact the loss has on us.
This phase features the final two R’s of Rando’s model. In this phase, we begin to find meaning — from both the loss and life again. It doesn’t mean we won’t experience some of the other R’s again, such as the recollection or reactions to loss, but we do begin to move toward moments of happiness again.
In this phase, we start to readjust to our new reality. We start to accept our new roles in life and our new responsibilities. For example, a widow or widower will start to take on their new roles as the sole caretaker of the household. Dr. Rando describes this part as moving “adaptively into the new world without forgetting the old.” It’s here where we find both our new relationship with the deceased, as well as our new identity.
We also reinvest our emotional energy. This means we begin to find a sense of happiness from life again. We might start a new hobby or project, or even find new sense of purpose. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean closure or getting over a loss. Instead, Rando describes this stage as learning to live again.
To read a more in-depth look at Dr. Rando’s grief model, click here.
What are your thoughts on Rando’s Six R Process of Mourning? Share with us in the comments below! In our next segment, we’ll explore Parkes and Bowlby’s Four Phases of Grief.