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How has Psychoanalysis Contributed to our Contemporary Understanding of the Process of Bereavement?

Introduction

Grief has been viewed from various perspectives by a number of theorists, who include Sigmund, Klein, Parker and Abraham. Mourning was described as an energy flow, where an individual evaluates the reality of a loved one loss and affirmation is followed by feelings withdrawal from the loved one. Freud believed that the process causes pain that partially fades away but not fully until a replacement of the loss is sought. Abraham believed mourning is a normal process and helps one internalize the lost individual or object as a good one. Parker, on the other hand believed that mourning was similar to physical injury and is characterized by blow (loss) and with time the wound heals unless reopened. Klein theorized that the process of bereavement involved denial and triumph that is followed by sorrow and reconnection with the surrounding. The process of bereavement described above is time framed and takes approximately six months to one or two years.

Bereavement from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

Psychoanalysis involves studying and analyzing the behaviors of an individual while relating them to the psychological state to enable get the individual off the painful experiences. This has played a significant role in the current understanding of the process of bereavement. According to Kernberg (2010) pain resulting from loss of a loved one is psychological and has no time limit; it can be reactivated to its worst intensity even after many years. This was evidenced by strategized interviews Kernberg conducted in the study, where individuals who had lost their loved ones many years ago relived the moment that happened during the interview. While mourning is normal, most psychoanalytic research is involved in pathological mourning, which occurs after prolonged grief leading to clinical depression.

Normally the process of bereavement involves four major steps that include disbelieve/denial, great concern, depression and finally and individual recovers. Immediately after a loss, one is shocked and this has been found to be a normal process to protect the individual from being overwhelmed by the loss. The individual is unwilling to accept the loss and this is followed by pre-occupation with the lost ones thoughts unable to perform even the usual daily tasks. This results in despair that is usually treated as the pathological mourning. The stage is characterized by the individual accepting that they lost a loved one. This elicits the need for reorganization of one’s life making the loss part of life rather than the center of it. The individual moves on but the pain of a lost one does not necessarily have to go away but pre-occupation with daily activities diverts attention from the loss and one is said to have recovered.

In conclusion, analysis of human behavior and relating that to the psychology has helped in understanding of various normal processes that may have been mistaken for disorders. Mourning is a normal process and this has been shown through study of human behavior and understanding of brain response to psychological trauma. Unlike the vague theories that explained the process of bereavement, psychoanalysis has provided the stepwise process of mourning for our present understanding.