Bereavement and Borderline Personality Disorder

Grief is hard for anyone, but especially if you have BPD

silhouette of depressed man
David Gonzalez/EyeEm/Getty Images

Bereavement, also known as grief, is defined as a set of reactions to a significant loss. While bereavement usually refers to the loss of a loved one, it may also refer to the loss of employment, a physical ability, possessions, or other events.

Bereavement is a complex process that is considered normal and may be accompanied by a variety of emotional reactions, behavioral responses, and thoughts.

For example, in the course of bereavement, you may experience sadness, anger, and/or relief. You may also feel the urge to withdraw from other people or to seek out social support.

Bereavement that's prolonged, overwhelming, or that seriously impairs your daily life is considered "complicated bereavement," a condition that may require therapy with a healthcare professional.

Bereavement and Borderline Personality Disorder

While there is very little research in this area, people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is characterized by an intense fear of abandonment, may theoretically be at greater risk for complicated bereavement due to their intense emotional reactions to separation from loved ones.

If you have BPD, grief can be much more intense when you lose a friend or loved one than it is for other people. You may express your grief through impulsive or destructive behaviors, like drinking or violence.

These actions usually only worsen your grief and continue a cycle of pain and distress.

BPD can also limit your expression of grief. It can cause a sense of anger, guilt, and shame that's completely unwarranted. Frustration and rage are particularly common. Your anger can be spurred by feelings of helplessness and loneliness.

In the case of the death of a loved one, you may feel responsible for what happened, even when that's not the case whatsoever.

You may already continually struggle with feelings of abandonment and rejection sensitivity, which can be heightened with the death of a loved one. This can keep you from handling bereavement in a healthy way because you feel so alone and isolated.

Or you may be so used to hiding your emotions that you cannot go through the natural grieving process. By suppressing your feelings and your sense of loss, you extend the bereavement process and make it much more complicated, inhibiting your ability to function.

Bereavement in Therapy

Unfortunately, loss and grief is part of life and learning to handle bereavement is essential for your mental and physical well-being. If you have BPD and are struggling with managing your emotions and grief after a loss, seek out a therapist specializing in personality disorders.

A good therapist can help you through the normal bereavement stages and help you handle those feelings of anger, helplessness, and frustration. He or she will walk you through the natural process so you can handle it healthily without resorting to dangerous behaviors or self-harm.

You may also learn some coping techniques to help you manage your intense emotions, from mindfulness meditation to keeping a journal.

While the bereavement process can be painful and upsetting, it's essential in order for you to heal and move forward. By seeking treatment, you can begin learning how to handle losses appropriately.

Source:

National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Borderline Personality Disorder: Treatment and Management. NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 78. British Psychological Society. Published 2009.