Overcoming Grief- The TEAR Model

Donna Gardner Jacoby, MSW, MA, LCSW,  ext. 401

“How do I get through this overwhelming grief? Where do I even begin?” For many who experience a significant loss, these thoughts are common. Certainly grieving is an emotionally and physically exhausting experience, and different people process loss differently. But it can be helpful to have information and some sort of structure to frame our thinking as the work of grief begins.


J. William Worden’s “Tasks of Mourning” (1991) TEAR Model of Grief is based on the idea that the grieving process requires active participation and a commitment to feel the feelings and work through the difficult thoughts. The TEAR model is less descriptive of the feelings associated with grief than the Kubler-Ross stages of grief model, and incorporates cognitive and behavioral tasks. For those of us who like a roadmap with a few landmarks listed for the road ahead, the TEAR Model resonates.


Worden delineates four key tasks of grief:

T- To accept the reality of the loss

E- Experience the pain of the loss

A- Adjust to the new environment without the lost person

R- Reinvest in the new reality


These tasks are not a to-do list to be completed in a linear manner. And just because we think we’ve “completed” them, does not mean that there will not be times in the future when we are again accepting the new reality, experiencing pain, adjusting, or reinvesting in the new reality.  These tasks are key components to regaining some equilibrium after loss and may be revisited multiple times over a lifetime, hopefully with less intensity and frequency as time goes on.


Worden’s TEAR Model tasks are broadly stated intentionally to acknowledge the wide range of feelings and experiences people have when they are mourning. While many people work through their grief individually and figure out what tasks they need to accomplish in order to live with their loss, for many others a therapist or support group can be helpful as they determine how to individualize the complex work associated with these tasks which will help them regain their balance and life satisfaction.