Bereavement and Borderline Personality Disorder

Grief is hard for anyone, but especially for those with 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 or relief.

You may also feel the urge to withdraw from other people or to seek out social support.

Bereavement that is prolonged, overwhelming or seriously impairs your daily life may be 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.  Many with BPD express their grief through impulsive or destructive behaviors, like drinking or violence. These actions usually only worsen grief and continue a cycle of pain and distress.

BPD can limit your expression of grief.

It can cause a sense of anger, guilt, and shame that is completely unwarranted. Frustration and rage are particularly common. For those with BPD, that 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 is not the case whatsoever.

Those with BPD continually struggle with feelings of abandonment and rejection sensitivity; this 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

Others with BPD are so used to hiding their emotions that they cannot go through the natural grieving process. By suppressing their feels and sense of loss, they extend the bereavement process and make it much more complicated, inhibiting their 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 normal bereavement stages and help you handle those feelings of anger, helplessness, and frustration. He will walk you through the natural process so you can handle it healthily, without resorting to dangerous behaviors or self-harm. You may learn some coping techniques to help you manage your intense emotions, from mindfulness meditation to keeping a journal.

While this process can be painful and upsetting, it is essential in order for you to heal and move forward. By seeking treatment, you can begin learning how to handle loss appropriately.


National Collaborating Center for Mental Health. Borderline Personality Center: Treatment and Management, 2009.