Growing around grief

We're often told there's a set timeline for grief. The growing around grief model challenges this idea.

What does ‘growing around grief’ mean?

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. The woman told Tonkin that at first grief 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. 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.

growing around grief

Why is the idea of  ‘growing around grief’ helpful?

This view of grief does not tell someone that their grief will go away in time. You will never be ‘over it’. It acknowledges that there will be some days where you feel grief as strongly as you did when the person first died. But there will also be days when you are able to move on with other parts of your life. Sometimes people feel guilty about this, as if it is disloyal to the person who has died. 

The ‘growing around grief’ model shows how we can still grieve the loss of our loved one while carrying on with our own lives. It shows that we can grow a new life which includes the loss. If you’re finding grief overwhelming, we’re here to help. 

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