In response to loss, several different processes may be at work having different biological mechanisms. . . . They suggest that we look carefully at the relationship before the loss took place and try to understand more precisely who and what has been lost, rather than beginning an investigation with the disruption of the emotional bond or tie between the two individuals, as if bereavement were simply a stress that was suddenly imposed.
Not infrequently after a person has been bereaved the situation with which he has to deal is unique, for the death entails the loss of the very person in whom he has been accustomed to confide. Thus, not only is the death itself an appalling blow but the very person towards whom it is natural to turn in calamity is no longer there. For that reason, if mourning is to follow a favorable course, it is essential that the bereaved be able to turn for comfort elsewhere.
Social attachments are a fundamental human need.
We are pained when relationships end not merely because we miss companionship or are suffering from the adverse consequences of stress, but because humans need social ties to function best. When long-term mate relationships end, many adults lose the person who helps them maintain psychological and physiological homeostasis. In human attachments, the core of this homeostatic set point is the experience of felt security, a sense that the world is safe and nonthreatening and that exploratory activities can be pursued without the risk of danger.
Accordingly, when relationships dissolve, it is this state of security that must be regained as individuals recover from separation and loss experiences.
Multiple biological and psychological systems are regulated by relationships, dysregulated by separation and loss, and, potentially, reregulated through individual recovery efforts.