Why do we mourn?

Posted: March 22, 2011 in life, love, religion
Tags: ,

When you are heart-broken, being bedridden is to no one’s benefit. You need all the energy you can get to pursue your love and make it work or get over it and get on with your life. However we humans are designed to do the exact opposite. When you are to be out there persuading her, when you need to be at your best, all you want to do is stay in bed and reminisce about the past, and a future that doesn’t exist . W. H. Auden’s lines saying “dismantle the moon, and pour away the ocean, for nothing ever comes to any good” seem so appropriate at that moment. Same with mourning the death of a loved one. I know it is all touchy-feely to be this way;  after all, the suffering we go through after that loss is the manifestation of the love and affection we had for that person. And it’s easy to say that those emotions, and suffering are the hallmark of humanity.

When examined from a purely scientific perspective, there is no survival advantage that a species  gains by mourning. So, why is it there? It probably is a side effect of the bonding and attachment that we develop with those we love. Without it being of no use on its own, shouldn’t we have lost it by now? Especially when there are downsides to mourning. Prima facie a species that expends energy and time mourning a loss is at a disadvantage compared to a species that doesn’t mourn. Why then is mourning hardwired in our DNA? May be it was an effective strategy against communicable diseases? after all if a family member’s death was due to such a disease, it is likely others in the family have contracted it, and may spread it in the community if they are active. If they don’t go out for a while, mourning the death of someone in the family, it might have had the effect of quarantining them? But most cultures seem to have the concept of everyone visiting the deceased to pay their respects, effectively nullifying any quarantining effect that resulted from mourning. Did this cultural phenomenon of paying respects to departed souls develop recently in human history?

  1. Camille Anne says:

    Very interesting points you make; deep thinker, I like! Speaking of mourning, I wrote an article few months back about a friend of mine that passed in a car accident, it talks about my personal mourning and bereavement, here: http://bittersweetpromenade.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/on-death-and-bereavement/

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