Lois Tonkin’s model goes against the idea that we ‘move on’ from grief.
We’re often told there are set stages to the grieving process. The popular five stages of grief model has led many people to believe there is a set framework for the different emotions you feel after someone dies.
Here at Cruse Bereavement Care, we prefer to look at a range of models to help us understand the different experiences people have after a death. One of these is the idea of 'growing around grief.'
Growing around grief is a model created by grief counsellor Lois Tonkin. Tonkin came up with the model after speaking to a client about the death of their child. At first, the woman noted that at first grief had consumed her totally and filled every part of her life. She drew a picture with a circle to represent her life and shading to indicate her grief. It was all consuming.
She had thought that as time went by the grief would shrink and become a much smaller part of her life and who she is. But what happened was different. The grief stayed just as big, but her life grew around it. There were times where she felt the grief as intensely as when her child first died, but there were other times where she felt she lived her life in the space outside the circle.
What people tend to find helpful about this view of grief, is that, rather than telling someone that their grief will go away in time, it acknowledges that there will be some days where you feel grief as strongly as you did when the person first died.
Often we have a sense of disloyalty to someone who has died about carrying on with our lives, and we end up feeling guilty when life goes on and becomes more normal. The ‘growing around grief’ model, however, shows how we can still grieve the loss of our loved one while continuing our own lives. It shows that we can grow a new life which includes the loss.