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Transcending Model of Loss

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

The literature on grief has focused on models that describe a stage, phase, or task explanation of the grief and loss process. We have created the Transcending Model, which is a process theory to attempt to capture the experience of grief and loss. This means that we do not conceptualize that grief is a checklist or linear process. We also do not believe that "recovery" from grief is a destination that anyone "arrives", but rather it is an ongoing process that we continue to engage in.. The Transcending Model of loss addresses the thoughts, feelings, and emotions connected to life before, during, and after loss. This process model also serves as a reminder that loss changes us permanently and sheds light on re-experiencing loss at various stages of lifespan development.


So in the Transcending Model of Loss we outline spaces an individual experiencing grief may find themselves. Just like landscapes across the world can vary greatly, so can the spaces of grief people find themselves in, but there can be some similar aspects and factors that are common. So this framework is not a map in that it spells out a step by step guide on how to resolve the pain from grief, but rather it is designed to help individuals recognize where they are and know there may be other spaces/places they will find on their journey. Each landscape may look unique to every individual, but there are some common features to recognize. There are through grief.


The four spaces include: Uncharted Territory, The Initial Reaction, The Lost Space/Adrift, and Transcendence.


In the Uncharted Territory the space is more naïve and untested. People are aware that loss happens, but it feels distant and something that can happen to others. It is a space that is navigated through more of a cruise control setting.


In the Initial Reaction there can be an overwhelming intensity of emotions and there can be complete numbness. It can feel devastating. For other losses it can be many emotions all at once….sadness, relief, fear, confusion, etc. But one thing is clear…things do not look like they did before.

In the Lost (adrift) space the path forward is still not clear. There is disillusionment about self, the world, and identity. What does it mean about me now that I am a divorcee, a widow, a dad that experienced a, a person with cancer. We ask ourselves “Who am I now?’ This space can be There is no time limit on how long this someone spends in this space.


Transcending is the final space but again is not a destination but more of a time when the person has developed a mode for navigating their new landscape that includes the loss. Though it does look different in that they are now beyond surviving: Surviving day to day is not the same as transcending. Transcendence is not about acceptance or letting go, but it is a space of integration of the loss. And it is about finding a process that is unique to you that allows that integration. Whereas in the lost space the question is asked, "Who am I know?" in the lost space there is starting to be a sense of self that understands I am someone new now, and I can get a sense of who that may be and how to begin taking the next steps forward.


While each of these spaces are complex and are impacted by development, relationships, previous losses, the type of loss.. Recognizing that these are expected spaces that are part of the human experience and we need grace and self compassion to be in these spaces is an important part of finding that integration process.



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