NACOS #9.02 Recognizing grief patterns: William Wordman’s Four Tasks of Mourning (11/2/20)

NACOS #1.02 Recognizing grief patterns: William Wordman’s Four Tasks of Mourning. Grief is an adaptation to unwanted change. How can we help congregations to adapt to unwanted change?

Matthew 16:2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

This material will be available 11/23/20.

RECOGNIZING THESE WEATHER CONDITIONS

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.

Reflection Question: As you consider persons you know who may be having difficulty with this stage, what are the characteristics of their struggle at this stage? What advice would you offer?
List of various losses experienced by this person. How do they play into the difficulty?

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.

Reflection Question: As you consider persons you know who may be having difficulty with this stage, what are the characteristics of their struggle at this stage? What advice would you offer?
List the various losses experienced by this person. How do they play into the difficulty?

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.

Reflection Question: As you consider persons you know who may be having difficulty with this stage, what are the characteristics of their struggle at this stage? What advice would you offer?
List the various losses experienced by this person. How do they play into the difficulty?

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.

Reflection Question: As you consider persons you know who may be having difficulty with this stage, what are the characteristics of their struggle at this stage? What advice would you offer?
List the various losses experienced by this person. How do they play into the difficulty? What helped this person overcome them?

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

Sermon 05/24/20: Fear and Grief and Faith (Eastertide V) 
(This sermon refers to Worden’s Four Tasks of Mourning)
“Worship at Home” Liturgy …  Sermon audio … Sermon slides as a PDF file.

– Website – Tasks of Grief, Maine.gov Suicide Prevention Program.
https://www.maine.gov/suicide/docs/Survivor-Kit/Tasks-Grief.pdf

– 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.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7GEWKuq1Ag

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES – 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 … 
“Worship at Home” Liturgy Sermon audio … Sermon slides as a PDF file.

– PTSD: Sermon 05/31/20: What Do You Need … To Believe? (Pentecost)
“Worship at Home” Liturgy …  Sermon audio … Sermon slides as a PDF file.

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– Eileen Garrett – Funeral Message – 05/05/2020  (An example of a funeral message; Eileen died of COVID.)
“Worship at Home” LiturgyFuneral Message for Eileen Garrett 05 05 2020.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS on funeral preparations:

  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?

HOMEWORK:
Choose one:
1. Identify a loss or unwanted change from your own personal life or pastoral experience. List all the losses involved. Describe how persons coped with each of these four stages of mourning. How would you improve your care for persons going through this loss? What advice would you offer?

2. Describe how your family and your congregation is coping with the massive unwanted change that is the Coronavirus pandemic. Describe the emotions and behavior of persons stuck in each of the tasks of mourning. Consider how you could help them move from the current task to the next one. What could you do? What advice would you offer?

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.)

Please write up your thoughts on one single spaced page or less.

SOURCES

Photo via Wikipedia Commons 800px-F5_tornado_Elie_Manitoba_2007

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

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