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Grief and loss theory in social work practice: All changes involve loss, just as all losses require change


K. Kellie Goldsworthy, BSW (Hons), is Acting Clinical Coordinator/Senior Social Worker, Hunter Valley Mental Health Service, NSW, Australia.


Working with and recognising grief and loss issues have long been identified as one of the core skills of social work practice. Despite its centrality, the exploration and application of grief and loss theory from a perspective other than death and dying has received sporadic attention in social work literature. This paper begins with a personal reflection from practice, which provided the catalyst writing in the first place. The concepts of grief and loss are then discussed in relation to losses other than death and dying. An analysis of historical and contemporary theories of grief and loss will then be explored, with the author advancing a theoretically expansive approach to grief and loss. This theoretical approach is one that is consistent with social work practice and is committed to diversity of experience and clients’ strengths, as it adopts a framework for practice, which is constantly mindful of the context and meaning systems of social work clients.