Psychological Development Across the Lifespan

The End of Life: Death and Dying

What do other theorists have to say about grief?

Several theorists have followed Kübler-Ross’s work with their own work on the process of grieving. In a series of publications from the 1960s to the 1980s, John Bowlby (the father of attachment theory) collaborated with Colin Murray Parkes to condense Kübler-Ross’s five stages into four phases of grief. Their work differed from Kübler-Ross’s original work, however, in that their focus was on the bereaved rather than the dying.

Their four phases are as follows: Shock and disbelief, searching and yearning, disorganization and despair, and rebuilding and healing. Thus, the bereaved must undergo a process of recognizing the loss, experiencing the acute pain of the loss, and then slowly rebuilding life and relationships so as to continue on without the loved one. J. William Worden developed a similar approach, speaking less of the phases than the tasks of grief. In his view, the bereaved must go through four stages: accept the reality of the loss, work through the pain of grief, adjust to an environment in which the deceased is missing, and emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life. Other theorists, such as Robert Neimeyer and Alan Wolfelt, write of related issues, such as the need to rebuild an identity independent of the lost relationship and to transfer the relationship with the deceased out of daily life and into memory.


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