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  • Cited by 55
  • Print publication year: 1993
  • Online publication date: May 2010

6 - Bereavement as a psychosocial transition: Processes of adaptation to change


People are fascinating because of their individuality; no two problems are alike because no two people are alike. This tempts some people to reject theories of human behavior. There are none that can be expected to predict or explain more than part of a person, and it seems mechanistic to attempt to force people into preconceived models. Yet we must have some frame of reference if we are to be of use to those who cannot cope with life's vicissitudes. It is not enough for us to stay close and to open our hearts to another person's suffering; valuable though this sympathy may sometimes be, we must have some way of stepping aside from the maze of emotion and sensation if we are to make sense of it.

One might say that our central nervous system has been designed to enable us to do just that. Human beings, to a greater extent than other species, have the capacity to organize the most complex impressions into internal models of the world, which enable us to recognize and understand the world that we experience and to predict the outcome of our own and others' behavior. Psychological theories are one way of doing this, and the measure of their success is their usefulness.

This article describes a theory that the writer has found useful in explaining certain aspects of the human reaction to loss.