NACOS #1.02 Recognizing grief patterns: William Wordman’s Four Tasks of Mourning

Native American Course of Study (NACOS)
NACOS #1.02 Recognizing grief patterns: William Wordman’s Four Tasks of Mourning
David O Kueker

I. Grief is an adaptation to unwanted change.
The experience of the United States with the Coronavirus pandemic is a colossal experience of grief as we adapt to a massive unwanted change. Grief is always related to a loss, but there are losses other than the death of a person which must also be grieved. The way a loss affects individuals and groups can be very complex.

Pattern: William Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning
William Worden’s four tasks of mourning provide a diagnostic pattern where we can see the stage where an individual is in their adjustment to grief and respond appropriately.

The four tasks of mourning also apply to stages of grief related to the gigantic cultural change of the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The four tasks are …

Accept the reality of the loss: some people do not accept the reality that the coronavirus pandemic even exists. They are in a state of denial and refused to take any precautions for a disease they considered to be imaginary or nothing more than the flu. This is basically a state of denial.

Experience the pain of loss: some people have accepted the reality of the coronavirus pandemic, but feel overwhelmed, helpless, unsafe and that they have no control over their lives. This is not a state of denial but more like depression and an inability to cope. They may also show signs of PTSD.

Adjust to life without: the person who is adjusting to life without has made changes to cope with the reality of living in a coronavirus pandemic. But they are still adjusting, and every now and then the adjustments are overwhelming.

As one clergy friend said, “I call them the Come Aparts. I’m walking across the room and suddenly I fall upon the floor unable to do anything but weep; when the storm passes, I pull myself back together and go on with my life.”

A temporary adjustment is frequently triggered by a reminder of the loss. Someone might remember the good old days and the way we’ve always done it before in church life. Or when there is snow to be shoveled or taxes to be done, the grieving person might feel an adjustment when they remember how the person who is no longer there used to do these chores.

Reinvest in life and the living: The person who is reinvesting in their life is someone who has adapted to living in the coronavirus pandemic. New habits have become the new normal and there is little difficulty as they go through their new life. They may feel nostalgic, but they’re able now to function without coming apart.

View the three required resources below.

Choose one:
1. Tell a story from your own personal life or pastoral experience about coping with each of these four stages of mourning after the death of a person or some other loss. The story can be about yourself or someone you know.

2. Tell a story from your own personal life or pastoral experience about how someone is coping with their experience of the coronavirus pandemic and a loss related to it. The story can be about yourself or someone you know. If you can, identify the task of mourning related to your story.

3. Plan and bring to class a ritual that you have used or could use to assist with grief, tragedy, conflict and/or healing and share that with the group. (Time for sharing may be brief.)


THREE REQUIRED RESOURCES: (a website, a video, a third item.)

Sermon 05/24/20: Fear and Grief and Faith (Eastertide V) 
(Required; Refers to Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning)

– Website link #1 – Tasks of Grief, Suicide Prevention Program

– Video – Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning – clip from Grief and Loss in Addiction and Recovery – March 2018 – This is a short clip from the video of a program on “Grief and Loss in Addiction and Recovery” presented by Jerry Fouchey, BS, MA, SpA, CADC, and Barb Smith; on March 20, 2018, as part of the Dawn Farm Education Series. This clip briefly describes William Worden’s “Four Tasks of Mourning.” Time: 5:33.



12 Suggestions for Dealing with Grief and Loss – Carl Benedict. Time: 5:10.

Bereavement Seminar: The Four Tasks (Part 5) – Watch this segment of a bereavement seminar conducted by Henry de Mena, MA, Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center, and learn about J. William Worden’s “Four Tasks” which serve as a guide to help people get through the bereavement process more easily. Time: 4:10.

SERMONS AND SLIDES by David Kueker, from his personal experience with COVID.

– My personal experience with COVID: Sermon 04/19/20: It’s Only Friday …

– PTSD: Sermon 05/31/20: What Do You Need … To Believe? (Pentecost)


– Eileen Garrett – Funeral Message – 05/05/2020  (An example of a funeral message; Eileen died of COVID.)


  1. What are your habits with regard to preparing for a funeral? How do you engage with a grieving family?
  2. What is important, in your experience, to include in the funeral sermon? In the liturgy?



Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner, by William Worden.

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