Understanding Grief in Social Work: Dual Process Model of Coping with Bereavement



Dual Process Model, Grief, Bereavement, Social Work, Assessment


Working with and assessing grief issues is central to social work practice. As social work students

on placement in a road trauma counselling and education service, we examined models and

measures of grief that could be used by practitioners in a community-based organisation with

clients impacted by road trauma. In this article, we reflect critically on the ways in which grief

is constructed in practice and measured for research and accountability purposes. We propose

that the dual process model of coping with bereavement (DPM), unlike the diagnostic model

of complicated grief, acknowledges that people cope in individualised and dynamic ways, and

that their experiences of grief are influenced by their external contexts. We identify the inventory

of daily widowed life as a useful measure of the extent to which a person can flexibly move

between different coping strategies for optimal adaptation to bereavement. We conclude that

the DPM enables social workers in this organisation to understand unique experiences of grief

and individual coping strategies and identify the focus for intervention in the bereavement

counselling context.