Grief

 

Grief – might be regarded as “societal pain”, In that way it is the societal equivalent of physical pain in the individual.

If it is accepted that the primary value of pain in an individual is that it teaches self-protective lessons, then grief has the same self-protective instructive values for a group.

Grief is an informative instrument. It draws the attention of the broad social group to noxious events, and causes the group to consider, and dwell on the cause of the source of grief, which is always loss, maximally through death.

Qualities of grief.

 

  1. Grief perceived by an individual will often produce grief in adjacent individuals.

It would be interesting to consider whether pain causes a biological equivalent of transmitted grief, at microscopic level, perhaps by apoptosis. Do cells react to the death of adjacent cells? Likely yes and there are many examples of biological responses to cell injury such as consequent neurolysis and reactive osteoblastosis.

 

  1. Inquiry: Grief generates enquiry. An early question asked when someone is informed of death, injury, illness or other loss is “What happened?” Then “why, did it happen?” Many obituaries give the cause of death.

 

  1. Vocalisation: Grief is associated with verbal expression, exactly as pain in the individual. One purpose of the verbal response is to draw attention to the noxious element, causing an injury (to both the individual and to society)

 

  1. Publicity: Grieving attracts an audience, (enhanced by the vocal signs) in keeping with its informative role – Hence congregation at funerals

 

  1. Proximity: Grief is greatest for those who are closest to the loss. Those nearest to the cause of the grief are the most at risk of being the next victims. Hence they have the greatest incentive to be alerted, by the emotion of grief, and to become critically aware of the causative event.

 

  1. Quantifiability: Grief, like pain, is not quantifiable. However it seems that its impact is not additive. The grief surrounding the death of many individuals will only have its maximum impact on those closest to that relative who has been killed. It is not additive, and despite the more killed in the notional airliner crash, the grief of the griever is not multiplied by the greatness of the number. The grief of one death need not be greater than the grief caused by many deaths.

Granted that there might be many who have grief inducted into them by observing grief but it is not linear or quantitative.

 

  1. Intensity: The intensity of grief bears relationship to the proximity of the griever to the loss, the youth (or useful life expectancy) of the lost object, the societal prominence of the loss, and the un-expectedness of the event.

 

  1. Expectations: In its relationship with expectancy, the death of one who is aged or has been ill for long causes less grief than an unexpected death.

 

  1. Societal impact: the grief associated with a (perceived) significant loss from society exceeds the grief of a loss with lesser societal significance. Consider the grief associated with the death of Princess Diana. This loss was perceived by so many to be a major societal loss – because of her fame – with accordingly a massive expression of grief.

Much the same might be said about pain. A small focus of pain in a functionally important structure, tooth, might be more intense than a greater injury to a less important structure.

Sense of “Loss”.  This is another emotion, recognised by all yet indefinable and unquantifiable. It is traditionally associated with grief. However it seems that only in specific circumstance is it a dominant emotion in grief. It is true that as a relatively late emotion after a death the recognition of loss of companionship makes itself apparent. This loss of companionship includes the loss of material (and monetary) support, plus a variety of social and practical implications which follow death and multiple social and practical implications which follow death..

But loss is a farther reaching, and probably distinct emotion, since it can occur without the presence of grief (as grief is traditionally recognised). Whether “loss” is a part of a psychological sub-assembly which includes of “ownership” can be debated.

There is little doubt that ownership contributes to the state of “contentment”, and hence the balanced condition of contentment can be disrupted by loss of a variety of types (material, sexual, companionable and, of course, the loss associated with the grief-of-death). Thus by extension loss of ownership causes a discontented emotion which is labeled grief.

The psychological (and for that matter legal) definition and implications of “ownership” would justify its own thesis and hence will not be expanded here.

 

 

Sense of “Loss”.  This is another emotion, recognised by all yet indefinable and unquantifiable. It is traditionally associated with grief. HOWEVER IT SEEMS THAT ONLY IN SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCE is it a dominent emotion in grief. It is true that as a relatively late emotion after a death the recognition of loss of companionship makes itself apparent. This loss of companionship includes the loss of material (and monetary) support, plus a variety of social and practical implications.

But loss is a further reaching, and probably distinct emotion, since it can occur without the presence of grief as grief is traditionally recognised. Whether “loss” is a part of a psychological sub- assembly which includes of “ownership” can be debated.

There is little doubt that ownership contributes to the state of “contentment”, an hence the balanced condition of contentment can be disrupted by loss of a variety of types (material, sexual, compnionable and ,of course, the loss associated with the grief-of-death). Thus by extension loss of ownership causes a discontented emotion which is labled grief.

The psychological (and for that matter legal) definition and implications of “ownership” would justify its own thresis and hence will not be expanded here.

 

A table comparing pain with grief

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About jp

Orthopaedic Surgeon
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