Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Psychological Theories on Grief - Dictionary of Arguments

Upton I 157
Grief/Psychological theories/Upton: According to Archer (1999)(1), a widely held belief is that grief follows an orderly series of stages or phases with distinct features. Traditional models have one main commonality - the need for grief work - which is described as an effortful process that we must go through entailing confrontation of the reality of loss and gradual acceptance of the world without the loved one (Stroebe, 1998)(2).
All models emphasize the need to experience all of these stages in order to reach an acceptance of the loss that has been experienced. Grief work models can be applied to the grief process that either adults or children will go through before reaching acceptance, although, as the next section shows, age will impact on how grief is displayed. Parkes’s (1972(3), 1986(4)) four-stage model describes the phases of bereavement and, in turn, the grief work that an individual). According to this model, an individual has to work through the stages of grief in order to reach acceptance and move forward in life.

Phase One: Initial reaction: shock, numbness or disbelief
Phase Two: Pangs of grief, searching, anger, guilt, sadness and fear
Phase Three: Despair
Phase Four: Acceptance/adjustment; gaining a new identity.

>Death/Developmental psychology.

Upton I 163
Sometimes a distinction is made between grief and mourning; grief is seen as a subjective state - a set of feelings that arise spontaneously after a significant death, whereas mourning describes the way in which grief is displayed. Mourning is often constrained by the rituals or behaviours prescribed by a culture. The Western approach to bereavement is not universal and displays of grief and mourning take different forms across the world. >Grief/Cultural psychology.



1. Archer,J (1999) The Nature of Grief: The evolution and psychology of reactions to loss. New York: Routledge.
2. Stroebe, MS (1998) New directions in bereavement research: exploration of gender differences. Palliative Medicine, 12(1): 5-12.
3. Parkes, CM (1972) Bereavement: Studies of grief in adult life. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
4. Parkes, CM (1986) Bereavement: Studies of grief life (2nd edn). London: Tavistock.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Psychological Theories
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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