I originally posted this in whole but due to the number of copies floating around the internet without my name on them, it is now available for download from tradebit. I am posting this for people who have more of an interest in understanding the grieving (mourning) process.
This paper is very academic and a bit dry because it was part of my undergraduate thesis and, of course, contained footnotes in the original.
The footnotes are not contained in the paper for copyright reasons but this is about a year’s worth of research and reading and writing. If you need a reference to something, please let me know. Although academic and dry, it gives a good overview of healthy grieving and why it’s important and what happens when you don’t grieve. It also contains a good amount of attachment theory by John Bowlby who is one of the major influences on my work.
Although written with death as the loss, the grief process is the same no matter what the loss and there is a lot here to explain the emotional process after a breakup.
If you have questions, please let me know and if you cite to this please give me credit but please please please don’t take this information from here as it is NOT properly footnoted. The reason for that is that this represents about a year’s worth of research and I don’t want to risk someone just taking my work and slapping their name on it. The original contains all the footnotes so please don’t copy this because I don’t want to be sued or accused of plagiarism or of not documenting my sources properly. :) Thanks! This is for informational purposes only.
From Freud Forward: Mourning Theory by Susan J. Elliott
In 1917 Sigmund Freud wrote “Mourning and Melancholia” to explain the “morbid disposition” of unresolved mourning. Contrasting the process of “normal” mourning to the pathological state, Freud intended this treatise to be recognized for its important focus on the complicated aspects of melancholia and its relationship to his earlier studies on depression and hysteria. Instead, the paper became the foundation for all psychological studies on mourning.
“Mourning and Melancholia” was one of the papers that resulted from Freud’s communications with Karl Abraham, who was studying depressive psychosis as a condition of unresolved mourning. Both Abraham and Freud were exploring the normal and pathological variants of mourning, responding to and amplifying each other’s writings. They agreed that mourning is a natural and necessary psychological reaction to loss and even though it “involves grave departures from the normal attitude to life,” it should not be treated as a malady. Freud’s writings focused on the significant loss of a loved one to death but said mourning would also result after “the loss of some abstraction which has taken the place of one, such as fatherland, liberty, and ideal or so on.”
The work of mourning is the reordering of object relations or letting go of the ego’s attachment to the object (loved one). This process involves a difficult struggle—definitive of the work of mourning—between wanting to hold on and needing to let go. It is carried through slowly, under great expense of time and cathartic energy. Because of the enormity of the work, the mourner often attempts to modify, delay, inhibit or stop the process before it is complete. When the psychologically necessary phases of mourning are interrupted, the conditions exist for the pathological variant, melancholia, to develop.
A painful self-absorption and self-abrogation characterizes melancholia. The world appears flat and lifeless due to what Coleridge called “a stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief.” Melancholia is sad, anxious depression that culminates in continual self-reproach that exacerbates the melancholic state. The loss in melancholy is often that of the mourner’s positive self-image and a “constant dissatisfaction” with the self that can’t seem to regain interest and vigor. This self-flagellation compounds and deepens the depressive state.
“Mourning and Melancholia” suggests that for mourning to be successful, the loved one must be totally relinquished. Years later Freud revised this, after his own daughter died, stating that the loved one was never totally relinquished but instead internalized. Successful internalization allows the relationship to be reframed in a context that permits the bereaved to go on with pleasant memories instead of being constantly besieged by painful flashbacks of the shared past. When the grief work is complete, a new, redefined interpsychic relationship is possible that is of great benefit to the bereaved. This redefinition has occurred when “deference for reality gains the day.”
To download the entire document go here: From Freud Forward