Four Tasks of Mourning: Task I – To Accept the Reality of the Loss

  • When someone dies, even if the death is expected, there is always a sense that it hasn’t happened. The first task of grieving is to come full face with the reality that the person is dead.
  • Many people who have sustained a loss find themselves calling out for the lost person, and/or they sometimes tend to misidentify others in their environment.

Protection and Denial

  • Geoffrey Gorer (1965) calls mummification, that is, retaining possessions of the deceased’s in a mummified condition ready for use when he or she returns.
  • Another way that people protect themselves from reality is to deny the meaning of the loss
  • Still another way to deny the full meaning of the loss is to practice selective forgetting.
  • Some people hinder the completion of task I by denying that death is irreversible.
  • Another strategy used to deny the finality of death involves the religion spiritualism.
  • Belief and disbelief alternate while one is grappling with this task. Krupp, Genovese, and Krupp (1986) said it well when they wrote: At times mourners seem to be under the influence of reality and behave as though they fully accept that the deceased is gone; at other times they behave irrationally, under the sway of the fantasy of eventual reunion.

Anger and Disbelief

  • Anger directed at the lost love object, the self, others believed to have caused the loss, and even at benevolent well-wishers who remind the mourner of the reality of the loss is a ubiquitous feature. (p. 345)
  • Another form of disbelief is what Avery Weisman (1972) calls middle knowledge. A term borrowed from existential philosophy, middle knowledge is both knowing and not knowing at the same time.


Worden, J. W. (2009). Grief counseling and grief therapy: A handbook for the mental health practitioner. (4th ed.) Springer Publishing Company.