This blog is an excerpt from The Pregnancy Loss Journal available from Vilomah.ie in November 2021.
The Dual Process Model theorised by Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut identifies the back and forth the bereaved person can have with their grief and newly bereaved path. They describe this switching or “oscillation” between what they call the loss-oriented zone and restoration-oriented zone.
The loss-oriented zone is where the “work” of grieving is taking place. When you are thinking about your baby, missing them, crying and reliving memories. Feeling their absence and actively planning for life without them.
The restorative zone is when you are not actively grieving, when you are distracted, busy or even consciously avoiding grief. You have to be in the restorative zone to attend to physical needs like eating, sleeping and take care of yourself and others (children for example). Going back to work, doing housework, shopping, socialising etc all take place in the restorative zone.
In the beginning most of our time is spent in the loss-oriented zone, only leaving for essential activities when triggered by a stressor. As time goes on, the desired outcome is that the ratio of time spent in each zone moves along a scale in favour of the restorative zone. Eventually we spend most of our time in the restorative zone or our new normal daily life, and only visit the loss-oriented zone when triggered by a stressor. Anniversaries are common stressors but certainly not the only ones. It is important to note the loss-oriented zone, and accompanying behaviours and emotions, does not disappear, or diminish. It occupies less of our time and energy, but it never goes away. Revisiting acute grief is not a step backwards, it is a normal part of life for a bereaved person.
Equally important to note is that the restorative zone is an essential part of grieving. It is so-called because it is the part of our lives that give us energy and the will to carry on. Grieving is emotionally and physically exhausting. A constant state of grief is impossible to maintain for any length of time. Feeling guilty for having a good day, or for laughing, or for “forgetting” your grief is absolutely not necessary. Getting periods of respite from your grief is not just normal, it is desirable for you to heal and to recover.