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5 Reasons To Grieve, Mourn: Varieties Of Grief And Mourning

Uploaded 5/17/2023, approx. 8 minute read

Now, those of you who have watched my videos know the difference between healthy grief, healthy mourning, which lasts about one year, and prolonged grief disorder, the new diagnosis in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

So, prolonged grief disorder lasts longer than one year, is intractable, there's no way to get over it, it involves obsessive compulsive features such as rumination, healthy grief, healthy mourning, abate, and then get integrated.

And once they're integrated, the feeling of grief and mourning is over, and all that's left are bittersweet memories.

This is the topic of today's relatively short video, the types or the varieties of grief.

Apropos grief, my name is Sam Vaknin, I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, and I'm a former visiting professor of psychology.

And onward and upward we go.

There are essentially five types of grief, each one corresponding to an etiology. Each type of grief corresponds to a reason, a cause, which then triggers pathological pathways.

These pathways are either repressed and then the grief becomes healthy, and it's a form of processing which should be condoned and even encouraged, or the pathology becomes entrenched and the grief becomes prolonged and the person becomes depressed, and everyone around the person becomes anxious, and it's all a bloody mess.

So today we're going to discuss these five reasons.


We grieve over five things, five issues.

Number one, unrealized potential.

We grieve over what could have been our denied wishes, our broken dreams, our abrogated plans, and our demolished fantasies.

We are creatures of dreams and storytelling.

And so a big part of our lives we spend in daydreaming, imagining, hoping, planning, foreseeing.

And when reality does not correspond, negate all these, we tend to grieve and mourn.

We grieve and mourn, not reality, not something that has really happened. We grieve and mourn the unrealized potential, the lack of self-actualization, what could have been the scenarios that have never materialized.

We are unique in this. We are absolutely unique in this.

Grief generally is a human phenomenon, although animals do grieve.

But animals grieve realities, they grieve losses and so on.

Humans can grieve imagination itself.

I mentioned in my video yesterday, inhibited grief or inhibited grieving in borderline personality disorder.

And I recommend that you watch that video to get an angle on that variety of grief.

So unrealized potentials.

Number two, reason number two to grieve.

The discrepancy between fantasy and perception of reality.

The fantasy could be an idealization fantasy.

When we idealize someone or we idealize a situation or we idealize a country or we idealize anything, a belief, a faith, a church, a collective, we tend to idealize literally everything given the chance because it's much more comfortable, much more reassuring and safe and stable to inhabit, to reside in, to live in an ideal world than in a flawed, potentially evil universe.

We feel threatened when things are less than ideal.

So we tend to idealize as a form of defense.

Indeed, fantasy is a defense mechanism. It's a defense against reality.

But then if we don't have a major pathology such as narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder, if we don't have these kinds of disorders, reality intrudes.

Reality provides us with clues and information and data that contravene our fantasies, undermine them, challenge them, ridicule them.

And if we are healthy, we adhere to reality. We listen to reality. We adopt reality over fantasy.

But there's a heartbreak. There's a heartbreak involved in giving up the ideal picture of another person or of a place or of a period of life or of an institution.

Whenever we give up on an ideal, we give up on ourselves in that ideal.

So the perception of reality, when it is abysmally different to the fantasy, especially a fantasy of idealization, creates mourning and grieving.

It's a bit of a feeling of having been conned, having been outsmarted by ourselves, having deceived and cheated ourselves. It's a feeling of, you know, I've been stupid. I've been stupid to do this. I've been stupid to believe this.

So there is self-recrimination. There is a harsh inner critic that puts us down for having believed in the idealized fantasy in the first place.

Then at the same time, there's a mourning and grieving of the fantasy gone awry.

Reality is never as palatable, as friendly and as pleasant as fantasy.

The third reason to grieve is catastrophizing, a perception of threat. It is anticipated loss, abandonment, rejection, humiliation, fear itself. Fear has a lot to do with mourning and grieving because fear is about losing something and loss is always associated with grief.

And so when there is a perception of threat, we tend to catastrophize the threat. We tend to exaggerate it. It's a defense mechanism and a very useful one, evolutionarily speaking.

If you exaggerate the threat, you will be overprepared. And if you're overprepared, chances for survival are much higher.

So catastrophizing is very useful.

When there is a threat perception, we catastrophize, we already anticipate loss, and the loss becomes very real to us. And of course, we immediately start to mourn and grieve automatically.


The fourth reason is irretrievable loss, actual irretrievable loss. Someone has passed away. A loved one is diseased, deceased. The dream itself is ticking by and going away.

And so these losses are immutable, irretrievable. There's nothing we can do about them.

And yet they're very real. And this inexorability, this helplessness, this hopelessness drive us to a sense of mourning and grieving.

One could say that we are always in a state of grief. We are mourning our demise, which is inevitable. We know that we're going to die. We apprehend our mortality as distinct from any other species.

And so from the day we grasp the concept of death, we start to mourn ourselves, mourn ourselves again, mourn what we could have been, mourn the discrepancy between the fantasy of immortality, the denial of death, and reality, the catastrophizing of death itself, threat perception, and the inevitable irretrievable, immutable loss of ourselves, which leads me to the most profound type of grief.

The type of grief that becomes an identity. And that grief is very common, for example, in children who are abused and then grow and become co-dependence or narcissism. Narcissism is a kind of prolonged grief disorder, as is probably borderline personality disorder, as is dependent personality disorder, co-dependency, and so on and so forth.

Anyone who has been subjected to a loss of identity, a loss of boundaries, loss of goals, and a loss of one's vision of the future, aka ego ideal in psychoanalytic parlance, anyone who has been subjected to this kind of profoundly personal losses will grieve for life and grief then becomes a response mechanism, a coping strategy.

And so when the child is denied the ability to separate from the parent and to become an individual, when the child's boundaries are not respected, when the child is penalized for having set boundaries in the first place, or for attempting to become his or her own person, that child is shamed into grief.

This kind of child mourns and grieves his inability to become himself and also mourns and grieves her mistreatment by parental figures. Shame is the flip side of grief because grief involves the deep-set sensation of helplessness.

We are helpless in the face of death. We are hopeless and helpless in the face of loss. There's nothing we can do.

Life, the world, reality, they're all stronger than us.

And so we mourn and grieve our limitations. We mourn and grieve what we are as opposed to what we could have become. We mourn and grieve our secession as opposed to our existence.

And in the case of narcissism, borderline, these people mourn and grieve their emptiness where a human being should have been full-fledged, happy, joyful, optimistic human being.

And so early childhood abuse fosters a prolonged grief disorder, lifelong, prolonged grief disorder.

But we do react with grief and mourning to life's events and crises. And they belong to the five categories that I've just described.

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