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The Dual Process Model of Grief in Simple Terms

Gabrielle Applebury
Grieving woman looking at a photo

The dual process model of grief is a theory created by Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut that approaches grief processing in a unique way. Unlike other grief theories, the dual process model theory posits that during healthy grief processing, individuals will oscillate between focusing on their loss and distracting themselves from their loss.

Dual Process Model

The dual process model was developed in the 1990s with the intention to be a more comprehensive model of the grieving experience.

What Is the Dual Process Model of Coping With Bereavement?

The dual process model of coping with bereavement:

  • Notes that part of a healthy grieving process is both focusing on and avoiding loss-related material
  • Says that moving between focusing on and avoidance of loss-related material is called oscillation
  • Notes that grieving in manageable chunks versus totally head on is part of healthy and adaptive grief processing

Dual Process Model of Grief Criticisms

The dual process model of grief notes that other grief work theories are lacking in that they:

  • See grief as a linear experience
  • Are not fully inclusive of those experiencing grief
  • Do not use empirical evidence to validate their theories
  • Offer a narrow perspective on one's internal process
  • Focus too much on confronting one's emotional experience

What Two Processes Make up the Dual Process Theory of Grieving?

The two processes that make up the dual process theory are loss-oriented stressors and restoration-oriented stressors.

Sad man looking at a photo

Examples of Loss-Oriented Stressors

Loss-oriented stressors are thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that bring up memories of your loss. Examples of loss-oriented stressors:

  • Thinking about a particular memory with your loved one who passed away
  • Cooking your loved one's favorite meal and thinking about the last time you were together
  • Looking through pictures of your loved one
  • Seeing someone who reminds you of your deceased loved one and having a memory triggered
  • Crying about the loss

Loss-oriented stressors tend to bring up intense emotional and/or thought processes. This may include feeling upset, lonely, and angry, as well as having intense thoughts about missing your loved one.

Examples of Restoration-Oriented Stressors

Restoration-oriented stressors are thoughts and behaviors that offer some respite from loss-oriented stressors. Examples of restoration-oriented stressors:

  • Throwing yourself into a work or school related project
  • Reading a book
  • Watching a show or movie
  • Connecting with friends and not discussing the loss
  • Doing household chores

Restoration-oriented stressors, according to the dual process model, are part of a healthy grief experience. These distractions serve as a way for individuals to carry on with acts of daily living and serve as part of restoring normalcy to one's life.

Examples of Oscillation

Oscillation is the process of moving back and forth between loss-oriented stressors and restoration-oriented stressors throughout the grieving process. Examples of oscillating:

  • Grief journaling about your loss followed by watching a funny movie (loss-oriented, restoration-oriented)
  • Feeling triggered by a smell that reminds you of your loss and thinking about your loved one followed by doing chores around the house (loss-oriented, restoration oriented)
  • Working out followed by looking at pictures of your deceased loved one and crying (restoration-oriented, loss-oriented)

What Are the Models of Grief?

Other than the dual process model, other popular models of grief include:

  • Five Stages of Grief- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
  • Four Tasks of Mourning- William Worden
  • Growing Aroud Grief- Lois Tonkin

Who Identified the Five Stages of Grief?

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is known for identifying the five stages of grief. She first wrote about these stages in her book, On Death and Dying.

Dual Process Model of Grief

The dual process model of grief posits that grief is not a linear or stage based process, but rather an oscillation between loss-oriented and restoration-oriented stressors in order to cope with loss.

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The Dual Process Model of Grief in Simple Terms