Surviving Spouse Corner: The 4 Facets of Grief

Surviving Spouse Corner: The 4 Facets of Grief
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By Renée Brunelle, Surviving Spouse Advisory Council member, and Ruth E. Field, MSW, LCSW


Often one’s grief journey has many variations or facets. After a loss, there are so many things that need to be completed and people demanding your attention that it’s easy to forget about taking care of yourself. However, when the final tasks honoring our loved ones are completed, we need to focus on healing ourselves. 


Ruth E. Field’s book The 4 Facets of Grief, helps put into words some of the tough experiences you encounter during the grieving process. The framework is flexible; there is no specific order to the facets, so you can read about and work with whatever interests you and seems relevant. 


Here are some highlights from the book:

  • Facet 1: Accepting (the Unacceptable) — Having to recognize what has happened and is true. This does not mean approving, liking, endorsing, or embracing the situation. Accepting can help you find some clarity in the haze of the decision-making process under the circumstances. MOAA publications are a great place to find helpful information.

  • Facet 2: Adapting to a New Reality — Modifying your previous life and transitioning to something new. This adjustment can be very challenging especially when resisting the inevitable change that is happening. Of course, nothing will be exactly the same when a loved one passes, but often aspects can remain. Figuring out what needs to change and what doesn’t is part of adapting.

  • Facet 3: Meaning Making Creating an opportunity for personal growth and lifestyle changes. Examples include focusing more on religious or spiritual education, increasing family interaction, or even philanthropic causes. Remember you are still here and finding new activities to bring some positive energy to your life can be fulfilling.

  • Facet 4: Replenishing — It is common to become depleted by people, events, and even your own emotions during grief. Being a bit selfish (in a healthy sense) by taking care of yourself first is key. Identifying what activities you find fulfilling can assist in the healing process. Even thinking about a new or old pursuit could revitalize you.


Each of the facets joins together to create a new beginning.

  1. Accepting brings you face to face with reality.
  2. Adapting to new circumstances inspires fresh ideas.
  3. Meaning making ponders the significance and implications of the loss.
  4. Replenishing ensures continued healthy self-care.


Each person’s journey is unique like a precious gemstone. When you use new skills like those in Field’s framework, you become like a jeweler cutting a rough stone and polishing it into a beautifully faceted one. Then you can let the light in again. 


Remember, try not to resist asking for help. Your MOAA surviving spouse liaison can be of assistance. Local resources are available to explore by simply asking your funeral director for a list. All are happy to provide additional support.


Ruth E. Field, MSW, LCSW, can be reached at for more information on her book and tips on the grief process.


Read past Surviving Spouse Corners.



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