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The Headmaster's Wife
"Part of a grand literary tradition...Deeply felt and utterly absorbing." -...
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Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Created: 05/07/15

Replies: 25

Posted May. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1358

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Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?


Posted May. 10, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lindah

Join Date: 04/17/14

Posts: 90

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RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes. The question for me is did Arthur lose his grip on reality in reaction to the death of his only son or in accumulated disappointments with his life. His marriage to Elizabeth was steadily deteriorating, he was unethical in his dealings as a young man, and his position as Headmaster was undermined by his drinking problems. Arthur may have come to the sad realization that his choices had made his life a failure and he was unable to cope.


Posted May. 10, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 247

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RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Grief can definitely cause a person to lose a grip on reality. especially when the grief is added to so many other problems. Aurthur's grip on life was already tenuous, and his guilt over his last words with his son could surely push him over the edge.


Posted May. 10, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jww

Join Date: 05/31/11

Posts: 138

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RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Absolutely. There are many wandering among us consumed by grief and guilt and experiencing alternate realities. The mind protects itself in whatever way works.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
antypam

Join Date: 08/14/14

Posts: 15

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Absolutely, and I don't know that anyone could ever be prepared for such a huge loss as one of a child. That being said, Arthur's very life experiences did nothing to help him weather the horrific storm of his son's death either. He was not particularly happy in his marriage, which is something that could have helped him through the pain. He was not well-suited for his chosen career, and as a result received little job satisfaction which may have helped bolster his day-to-day living after Ethan was killed. He did not have close friends, which could have been the support system he needed to keep him tethered to reality.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Retired Reader, NE

Join Date: 09/16/11

Posts: 165

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RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Of course it is possible for grief to cause person to become delusional. Arthur and Elizabeth are educated with resources to help them cope. I felt they sunk to the lowest level of grief and just stayed there.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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pauj

Join Date: 04/26/14

Posts: 30

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes, but...it seemed to me that he was processing grief within a co-occurring mental illness. That much of a delusional loss of reality seems far-fetched for a grief reaction, even as traumatic as it was.


Paula J
Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
aleksandrae

Join Date: 02/25/14

Posts: 40

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

I do believe grief can do terrible things to the mind but am not completely convinced that that alone can cause such a deterioration. I would imagine it would need to be in conjunction with other severe mental issues.


Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
audrey1

Join Date: 09/02/13

Posts: 20

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

I think Arthur had a pretty tenuous grip on reality before Ethan died. His reality was filtered through his internal needs and the actual reality around him. His sense of self was pretty wrapped up in this tradition of one after another males in his family following in the same footsteps. If that is how your sense of reality is, how do you cope with the actual reality of who your own children are and what their needs and desires are?


Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 247

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RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes, after reading this book, I remembered my aunt who had become somewhat forgetful, mixed up conversations, but pretty much remembered doing so. After my cousin, her son, died suddenly there was a rapid decline in her condition. Within two weeks she would be found wandering around town, not knowing where she was, and kindly neighbors would bring her home. Within four weeks it became necessary to place her in a nursing home. I believe the death of her son was so overwhelming, all else was lost to her.


Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janh

Join Date: 05/13/15

Posts: 2

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes, I think grief will definitely impact one's reality, and cause them to look at things in a way that is skewed. That said, Arthur's perception of his current reality seems weird to begin with, and his judgment impaired - even prior to Ethan's death.


Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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jant

Join Date: 07/15/14

Posts: 20

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

I do think it is possible for a person to lose touch with reality because of grief. Because grief is such a personal experience I don't think it is always easy to know how someone would react. Grief is so isolating which in itself could lead to self harming behaviors. It is also difficult to ascertain which actions could be contributed to the grief Arthur experienced. I do agree with other posters, Arthur was mentally vulnerable and lacked the emotional strength to weather this grief. I would attribute Arthur's actions to his isolated environment, lack of personal choices, insecurity and guilt over his wife and Russell as major contributors to his loss of reality. It is really a sad story but leaves the reader with hope for all parties.


jan t
Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Windsong

Join Date: 05/07/13

Posts: 70

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RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

I totally agree with antypam.


Posted May. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dannod0409

Join Date: 04/28/15

Posts: 4

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Any major life event can lead to a person losing their grip on reality if they retreat into themselves and cut off all support systems around them; or if they don't have a strong support system to begin with.


Posted May. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorisk

Join Date: 10/20/10

Posts: 23

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes, especially when a person has some mental issues as Arthur obviously had.


Posted May. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
vickys

Join Date: 04/21/11

Posts: 28

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes I do. A death can be so unexpected and hurtful that it can overwhelm someone, particularly if they don't have adequate coping skills to begin with. Everyone grieves differently. I think that loosened moors from reality can be brief or, as someone mentioned above, can be longer term or permanent if there are mental health issues already present.


Posted May. 18, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
vickic

Join Date: 09/15/14

Posts: 24

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Absolutely! Grief, although typically following a loose pattern in most people, is never identical in any two people. If an individual didn't have very good coping skills to help them get through the stages of grief, it is possible that they might develop an alternate reality to fit their capabilities.


Posted May. 18, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pamelathereader

Join Date: 04/22/15

Posts: 9

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes indeed. Assuming Arthur didn't have an actual mental illness, I wonder if the author was describing different ways men and women, mothers and fathers, react to a tragedy involving their child(ren)? While Arthur descended very far into delusions, Elizabeth/Betsy was able to pull back - at the very last minute - and move back to reality.


Posted May. 18, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
barbarac

Join Date: 04/14/11

Posts: 8

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

I am a Pollyanna and have a problem with Arthur's decay which had to start way before Ethan's death. Arthur seemed to have no real friends to get him back on track. That includes Elizabeth. He was an alcoholic and became a sexual predator in his own head. He was trying to get free of everything through his choices. He had to know what he was doing to some degree. Imagining sexual encounters with students was not part of anything he could feel was okay. Some of us have experienced similar tragedies involving our children, but we chug along. It is true we all have differing reactions to true grief. But most people in the research, do not do a 180 degree turn morally.


Posted May. 19, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
flute4u

Join Date: 08/14/13

Posts: 27

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Arthur clearly had control issues and when Ethan joined the army he lost control of his only child. Ethan's sudden violent death came when Arthur and Ethan were estranged and Arthur's response to this devastating event was to regress to a place where he was again in control. I'm not sure if grief is the right word to describe the precipitating emotion for Arthur. It may have easily been anger that tipped him into an alternate reality.


Posted May. 20, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
diwolter

Join Date: 05/19/12

Posts: 10

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes, definitely. Grief, disappointments, failures, sadness and other such emotions are cumulative --- and the brain tries to cope in different ways --- by removing memories, conversations, and realities --- creating an alternate universe for protection; a way to hide from the pain and right one's self to keep on living by turning inward and creating a new, less agonizing reality.


Posted May. 21, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
josephinej

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 26

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes, especially when one is as isolated as Arthur was.


Posted Jun. 01, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susiej

Join Date: 10/15/14

Posts: 92

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RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

Yes, most certainly I believe this is a possibility, especially when the surface emotion - in this case grief - may have had something deeper that was not being acknowledged or dealt with such as loss or anger.


Posted Jun. 03, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
keizerfire

Join Date: 04/14/11

Posts: 20

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

I absolutely think it's possible for grief to cause someone to lose their grip on reality. Especially if their grip on reality is somewhat tenuous at best, and they don't have a good support group of family and friends. This book made me at times feel both sad and angry. I'm still thinking it through.


Posted Jun. 06, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dorothyl

Join Date: 04/15/12

Posts: 89

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RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

I think it is definitely possible for grief to cause trauma and for one to become delusional. I do think that usually there are underlying mental issues for it to take root. Arthur was disconnected and didn't really have a support system to help him heal and move on.


Posted Jun. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
mariannem's Gravatar
mariannem

Join Date: 05/21/15

Posts: 5

RE: Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?

I think it was instilled in Arthur to have high expectations of himself and his family. With his only child failing to meet that expectation, he lost his identity and sense of self.


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