The Six ‘R’s of Mourning

An outline of Dr Rando’s six-part theory of grief

Last updated: 10 November 2016

Clinical psychologist Dr Therese Rando’s theory of the grieving process focuses on you can actively deal with what you’re feeling after somebody dies and move towards healing. It’s similar to Dr J. William Worden’s Four Tasks of Grieving.

She divides mourning into six separate tasks to be completed and groups those tasks into three stages. The three stages are avoidance, confrontation and accommodation.

Dr Rando uses the word ‘grief’ to describe the feelings you experience after the death of a loved one - those thoughts and emotions that you involuntarily feel. The word ‘mourning’ means something different in this context; Dr Rando uses it to be the active process of dealing with that grief. Bear this in mind as you read about the Six ‘R’s.

Phase 1: Avoidance

The avoidance phase is when you may be unable or unwilling to fully understand what has happened. Though you might understand the fact that your loved one has died, a part of you can still not accept this as reality. The avoidance phase has one task:

Recognize the loss. According to Dr Rando, fully acknowledging the loss means understanding what happened and really accepting it, knowing in your heart, that your loved one has gone.

Phase 2: Confrontation

The confrontation phrase involves dealing with your grief and finding ways to process what you are experiencing. There are three tasks in this phase:

React to the separation. This means understanding and embracing all the complex, powerful emotions you are feeling. It also means acknowledging something known as ‘secondary losses’. For example, the death of a spouse may also mean the loss of financial security, the loss of your idea of the future, the loss of romantic intimacy. These are all secondary losses for which you may also be grieving.

Recollect and re-experience. Recollecting means remembering your time with your loved one, through the good and bad. These memories will become an important way of maintaining a relationship with your loved one, as they will continue being an important influence in your life.

Relinquish old attachments. This may sounds harsh at first, but ‘relinquishing old attachments’ does not necessarily mean moving on or forgetting your loved one. It’s a long and very gradual process where you slowly begin to process the impact of your loved one’s absence.

Phase 3: Accommodation

The accommodation phase is all about finding meaning in life again. This doesn’t mean you won’t still have feelings of sadness or longing, but you will be able to have moments of happiness again. There are two tasks in this phase:

Readjust to the new world without forgetting the old world. Readjusting can mean becoming more comfortable with new roles and responsibilities, but also accepting who you are now and how the death of your loved one may have changed you. You will be feeling more able to cope with day-to-day life while still remembering and cherishing your loved one.

Reinvest emotional energy. This is another way of describing the act of enjoying life again, finding new friends or projects, and rediscovering a sense of purpose. This should not be interpreted as ‘replacing’ your loved one, as Dr Rando very much emphasizes the continuation of your love for them. Rather, it is about allowing yourself to care about new things and even enjoy yourself.