The Range of Response to Loss model – a theoretical starting point

Many theories of grief, like the stages and phases model, provide broad definitions of  psychosocial reactions to loss, but what is clear in practice and research is the diversity of individual experiences and expressions of grief. The Range of Response to Loss model while proposing an overarching conceptual framework for understanding the dynamics of grief does so in a way which allows for the recognition of individual variations within it (Machin 2001; Machin 2014).

It is a two dimensional model of grief (Attig 2011; Stroebe et al 2006) made up of:

  • Instinctive, unconscious reactions to an experience of loss, which have been shaped by earlier experiences of loss, messages from family and from education about how to behave in circumstances of loss, observation of other people; all of which create an accumulated personal style of reacting to loss. These reactions are seen in the RRL as a spectrum ranging from feelings to functioning, where at one end of the range feelings might be experienced as overwhelming and at the other functioning expressed as controlled avoidance of feelings
  • Conscious, coping responses to a loss and its consequences on a spectrum from vulnerability to resilience. In this the spectrum of responses will range from vulnerability, where specific stresses associated with the loss e.g. a sudden death, unsatisfactory end of life care for the deceased etc. and/or other circumstantial factors such as  as stressful relationship issues, mental / physical health problems, economic difficulties such as, unemployment, multiple life losses etc. may contribute to difficulty in coping with loss. Conversely, where loss was expected and uncomplicated, and occurs within a context of support and personal psychological resourcefulness, coping is likely to be characterised by resilience.

2 Dimenisonal ModelFigure 1. The RRL and its two interacting dimensions -grief reactions and coping responses

The manifestations of the broadly different loss responses are shown on the diagram below. While for any individual these characteristic expressions of grief will vary over time the RRL provides a template for practitioners to assess the nature of grief in those seeking help. It is an approach to assessment used in a number of hospice settings (Relf, Machin Archer 2010; Brocklehurst, Hearnshaw and Machin 2014).

RRL Model template

Fig. 2. The RRL model as a template for practice

The RRL model is the theoretical model on which the measures described on this website  are based.


Attig, T. (2011) How We Grieve: Relearning the World. New York: Oxford University Press.

Brocklehurst, T., Hearnshaw, C., and Machin, L. (2014) ‘Bereavement needs assessment – piloting a process’. Progress in Palliative Care, Vol. 22 No. 3.

Machin, L. (2001) Exploring a framework for understanding the range of response to loss; a study of clients receiving bereavement counselling. Unpublished PhD thesis: Keele University, UK.

Machin, L. (2009/ 2014) Working with Loss and Grief. London: Sage.

Relf, M., Machin, L. and Archer, N. (2010) Guidance for Bereavement Needs Assessment in Palliative Care. (2nd edition) London: Help the Hospices.

Stroebe, M. S., Folkman, S., Hansson, R. O. and Schut, H. (2006) ‘The Prediction of Bereavement Outcome: Development of an Integrative Risk Factor Framework’, Social Science and Medicine, 63: 2440–51.


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