Excessive Mourning

"In a great palace by the sea there once dwelt a very rich old lord, who had neither wife nor children living, only one little granddaughter, whose face he had never seen in all her life. He hated her bitterly, because at her birth his favourite daughter died; and when the old nurse brought him the baby, he swore, that it might live or die as it liked, but he would never look on its face as long as it lived.

So he turned his back, and sat by his window looking out over the sea, and weeping great tears for his lost daughter, till his white hair and beard grew down over his shoulders and twined round his chair and crept into the chinks of the floor, and his tears, dropping on to the window-ledge, wore a channel through the stone, and ran away in a little river to the great sea. And, meanwhile, his granddaughter grew up with no one to care for her, or clothe her;"

Someone has died. Someone else grieves — on, and on, forever, to the total neglect of all other duties. Or sometimes, on such a grand scale that he's a hazard to all who surround him. Disproportionate Retribution, for instance, is often powered by Excessive Grief.

When Due to the Dead is pumped Up to Eleven, it inverts itself. Instead of being a mark of a Good person, it is the mark of clinging to the death too much and irresponsibly ignoring the existence of other people. The most common neglect is of the person's children — or their other children, if The Favorite died. (It has been known for a child to become The Unfavorite because the other child died.)

Many societies may have rigid mourning customs. This, for instance, includes the period of time a person spends in mourning, and the proper days on which to commemorate the dead. Some excess may be regarded with understanding in the wake of death, but continuing will bring distaste. Imprudent expenditure, such as enormous tombs and extensive ceremonies are also problematic, especially if the character can't really afford it. There may also be suggestions that some forms of mourning — like seclusion — are less prudent than others — such as commemorating the dead with charitable donations.

People reasoning with the mourner often argue that, after all, death is inevitable, and that excessive grief is impious to a death decreed by Fate or God or some god.

May be cured with Epiphany Therapy and Single-Issue Psychology. Compare Sanity Slippage and Deus Angst Machina. See also The Mourning After, which requires only that the character not move on to a new relationship, though they can overlap. May be caused by The Lost Lenore.

Compare Revenge Before Reason for "Excessive Vengeance", which may happen at the same time as this trope. Contrast Get A Hold Of Yourself Man (where he's told to stop mourning too much) and Get It Over With.

Include only examples where it is clearly indicated in the work that the character's grief is excessive. Otherwise, see Wangst.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tobi from Naruto, totally lost his marbles after Rin died, to the point that it becomes the catalyst for his Start of Darkness. His villainous motivations are ultimately so that he can meet Rin again, even if with using illusion.
  • In Triage X, Kunio Oomichi mourns the death of his older brother Yukio. One of the Kabuto-gumi's gurentaisnote  reminds him that he can't mourn his brother's death for long since he needs to take over. He responds by hacking his hand off with his katana for interrupting him.
  • Ranma ½: Soun Tendo spends the entire series mourning his late wife, who died years before the series started. This causes him to neglect both his business and his three daughters.
  • In Weiß Kreuz, Aya is so obsessed with his comatose sister, Aya, that he changes his name to 'Aya', despite this being mainly a woman's name.

  • In "The Unquiet Grave", Child Ballad #78, the dead lover objects to mourning that lasts for more than A Year and a Day as an injury.
    The twelvemonth and a day being up,
    The dead began to speak:
    "Oh who sits weeping on my grave,
    And will not let me sleep?"

    Comic Books 
  • One of the randomly generated heroes in Dial H For Hero is Captain Lachrimose, whose power is to cause this in others. He can sense a person's saddest memory and make them experience the full unmitigated grief of it. In a vicious (virtuous?) cycle he also fuels his Super Strength and Flight from ambient sadness.
  • Black Canary once went on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, denying that Ollie was dead, after he had attacked her on their wedding night, and she had killed in self-defense. All her friends interprete this as Excessive Grief, and her knowledge that that is exactly what it looks like only drives her on harder. (When Batman analyzes the situation and concludes that she's right, she kisses him for joy.)

    Fan Works 

    Fairy Tales 
  • In "Tattercoats", the nobleman lets his granddaughter grow up neglected and abused by servants because her mother's death during childbirth, and his oath to never look on her face. Eventually, she marries the prince, but her grandfather goes back home to mourning and shut himself out of the Happy Ending because he gave his word.
  • In a "Snow White"-like story from the Hebrides Islands, when the queen of the sea goes up on land and gets trampled to death by a horse stampede, her husband mourns her for more than a year, to the point of neglecting everything including his daughter. When he sees her a year later (she's still mourning, too), he resolves to find a new mother-figure for her note . He marries a SeaWitch, who promises him that she'll look after his daughter...though she's really just after his power and turns out to be a Wicked Stepmother.

  • In C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, one damned woman was My Beloved Smother toward her son, and after his death insisted on keeping his room the same and otherwise obsessing over him until her husband and daughter revolted, though they were a loving father and sister. Her brother, as a Bright One, observes that it was not even her dead son dominating their lives, but her wishes.
  • In Laura Amy Schlitz's Splendors And Glooms, Clara is the sole child of the family to survive. She receives presents every birthday from the dead, must visit the grave every significant day of the year (such as Christmas), and is surrounded by mementos of the dead. When Parsefall observes that deathmasks are gruesome, she feels a burst of Commonality Connection.
  • In the Belgariad,
    • The (presumed) extinction of the Marags caused their god Mara to spend centuries in insane grief.
    • One of the downsides of all the Perfectly Arranged Marriages of which the Purpose is so fond is that whenever one of the partners in a marriage dies, the widow or widower left behind tends to fall into such deep depression that they become incapable of functioning. One of the particularly bad cases was Aravina, the mother of one of the Rivan heirs; when her husband died in a riding accident, she was too overcome with grief to take care of her son Gelane, and lacking sufficient parental guidance (normally, Polgara would have taken over, but she was away), he turned into a difficult, moody brat who briefly fell under the influence of the Dark Side.
  • In the Iliad, Achilles's revenge for Patrocles's death includes abusing Hector's corpse after his death. Only when Priam appeals to him for the corpse does he settle down.
  • In Tigana, the Evil Sorcerer takes revenge on an entire country because his favorite son died in a battle there.
  • This was a problem during Katniss Everdeen's childhood in The Hunger Games. After her father's death, her mother shut down to such an extent that Katniss herself basically had to take charge of the family.
  • At the beginning of Sense and Sensibility, Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne indulge their grief over Mr. Dashwood in an incessant feedback loop, bringing up memories and keepsakes specifically to keep the sadness going. Elinor, while unhappy herself, is forced to take on all the work of actually running the household while her mother and sister sob themselves insensible.
  • Heimskringla: When Harald Finehair's Sami wife Snaefrid dies, her body does not decompose, and Harald sits at her deathbed for three years because he thinks she might come to life again, in the meantime neglecting all affairs of government. Finally Harald's advisor Thorleif suggests changing Snaefrid's bedsheets; as soon as the corpse is raised, it turns rotten. Harald has it burnt on a pyre and stops mourning.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: When Enkidu dies from a sickness sent by the gods, Gilgamesh refuses to let him be buried for seven days, hoping he can call him back to life by his mourning. Only when maggots appear in Enkidu's face, Gilgamesh allows the corpse to be buried, and then goes off into the steppe alone to cry for Enkidu, leaving his kingdom behind.
  • In Brightly Burning, the mother of the late, unlamented Tyrone Jelnack has the house decked in black swaths of mourning, when all other houses have green garlands due to a midwinter festival. It's not only in questionable taste, since Tyrone was known to have been a Royal Brat, but also makes it clear that she gets her own way, even though she's of questionable sanity.
  • In the first book of Dirk Pitt Adventures, Dirk meets a woman who, to his shock, has been mourning her husband and keeping herself away from society for the past nine years.
  • In The Witchlands, Cam accuses Merik of this, noting that not only is his grief making him barely functional and unwilling to see the truth that's right in front of him, but Merik seems to think that this is somehow a good thing.
  • Non-dying variant occurs in A Song of Ice and Fire: In the first book, when Bran is in a coma, his mother Catelyn goes into a Heroic B.S.O.D. that echoes this trope: spending all day and night by his bedside, abandoning her duties as Lady of Winterfell, and her other two children who are still in the castle, Robb and Rickon. Robb later gives her a What the Hell, Hero? speech for it. She finally snaps out of it when someone sends an assassin after Bran, and after the attempt is thwarted she leaves Winterfell in an attempt to protect the rest of her a family. For reasons a little too complicated to explain here, she and Bran never see each other again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A Saturday Night Live sketch featured Chris Farley crying over his parents' deaths thirty years after the fact, to the consternation of everyone he met.
  • Everybody Hates Chris: In "Everybody Hates Funerals", we're introduced to Rochelle's Dysfunctional Family, one of whom is a sister by the nickname of "Aunt Grievey", named because she only shows up at funerals. No weddings or birthdays. Just funerals.
  • Played for Drama in Marchlands. When the series begins, Rose's daughter Alice has been dead for six months, but she is convinced that Alice died in suspicious circumstances, which no one else believes. Her husband and in-laws pressure her to move on, thinking she's just grieving excessively, and making up theories to justify holding onto her little girl. Well, two of them think that, anyway. One of them knows exactly how Alice died.
  • In the early episodes of Orphan Black, the main character Sarah fakes her death with the help of her foster brother Felix. Sarah's abusive ex, Vic, is utterly devastated, spending days, if not weeks, at a time drinking in Felix's loft, much to his annoyance. When Vic says he now wants to get to know Sarah's daughter, Felix decides he's had a enough and kicks him out.

  • In William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, one argument Orsino tries on Olivia is that her seclusion and living in mourning are not the best way to mourn. If she married and had children, that would perpetuate their line.
  • In Hamlet, Claudio argues that Hamlet suffers from this.
    But to persever
    In obstinate condolement is a course
    Of impious stubbornness. 'Tis unmanly grief.
    It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
    A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
    An understanding simple and unschooled.
  • In "Oh What a Circus", the opening number of Evita, The Everyman narrator Che says that Argentina is going overboard with the grand scale of Eva's funeral - "We've all gone crazy, mourning all day and mourning all night, falling over ourselves to get all of the misery right".
  • In The Rose Tattoo, Serafina never leaves her house or gets dressed for three years after her husband's death, though she does mind her daughter. Father De Leo calls her out for her self-indulgently excessive grieving, and further scolds her for having had her husband cremated to make an "idolatrous shrine" of his ashes in her house.

    Video Games 
  • In Might and Magic 8, you need to find someone who witnessed the creation of the lake of lava on the Ironsand Desert, which happens to be a troll named Overdune Snapfinger. However, Overdune tells you that he can't go with you because his brother, Vilebite, died during the aforementioned flood of lava, and his father is in such grief over his death that he can't take care of himself. Overdune requires you to bring Vilebite's ashes to the local tomb before he can go with you, in hopes that this will ease his father's pain.
  • The king of Ascantha in Dragon Quest VIII has kept his entire kingdom in a state of mourning for the late queen, who died two years prior.

    Western Animation 
  • Cleveland in The Cleveland Show initially had this over the death of his unfaithful ex-wife Loretta to the annoyance of Donna. He realized it was Survivor's Guilt; the falling tub gag he had been victim to several times while living in Quahog left him without a scratch, yet killed Loretta the one time it happened to her.
  • In Steven Universe, Blue Diamond has been mourning her "sister" Pink Diamond for over five thousand years and is still grief stricken like it just happened yesterday, including secretly visiting the site of her death on Earth and preserving any mementos of hers that she can find, to the point that Yellow Diamond (whose own method of dealing with her grief is to effectively Un-person Pink) calls her out on this with a Villain Song trying to get her to move on.

    Real Life 
  • James M. Barrie's entire childhood was warped by his mother's excessive grief over his brother, who drowned in an ice skating accident. At one point, his uncle forced him to go into the room where she was to remind her of his existence; Barrie states his mother took great comfort in Barrie imitating his deceased brother. Her longing for her son, "who would remain a boy forever," served as the eventual inspiration for Peter Pan and the other Lost Boys.
  • Joanna of Castile, a Spanish queen who went mad with grief after her husband's death, and allegedly took his corpse with her when traveling so she would never have to part with him.
  • Queen Victoria didn't go around in black all the time (as is her customary depiction) — until her husband died in 1861. She was in mourning until she died, 40 years later.