Mourning sickness: The politicizations of grief

Leeat Granek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


In this paper, I propose that the politicization of grief falls into 3 categories of what I have termed different types of Mourning Sickness. In Mourning Sickness Type I, the politicization of grief functions to discipline the individual mourner's body into a productive, functioning, and contributing member of a capitalistic society. Moreover, I argue that the individualist ethos that pathologizes grief neuters the rage that can come with mourning and turns the gaze away from social injustices such as poverty, imprisonment, and opportunity gaps that are caused by state neglect. In Mourning Sickness Type II, I suggest that the politicization of grief is about consciously manipulating individual and collective grief in the service of nationalism and military power. The manipulation of grief on this level includes the explicit links made between loss and grief and justification for war, aggression, and violence, but also includes the distinctions made between whose lives are deemed grievable and whose lives are considered worthless and unmournable. Both Mourning Sickness Types I and II are of the pathological variety urgently requiring academic and public critique. In the last type of Mourning Sickness, I suggest that grief is also politicized when it is activated as a motivator toward a social justice agenda that includes peace, reconciliation, nonviolence, and positive social change on behalf of individuals, communities, and nations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-68
Number of pages8
JournalReview of General Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • Complicated grief
  • Grief
  • Israel
  • Medicalization
  • Mourning
  • Pathological grief
  • Politicization
  • Politics
  • Social activism
  • United States
  • War rhetoric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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