President Biden, Our Commander in Grief


Diane Perlman, PhD | Medium - TRANSCEND Media Service

“There is no love without loss. And there is no moving beyond loss without some experience of mourning. To be unable to mourn is to be unable to enter into the great human cycle of death and rebirth — to be unable, that is, to “live again.”
— Robert Jay Lifton, Preface to The Inability to Mourn

Joe Biden, Healer in Chief

24  Feb 2021 – I may not love everything Joe Biden does, but I love that he held two public ceremonies to remember and mourn US Covid deaths on January 19 and February 22, marking 500,000 deaths. I doubt whether Biden was adequately appreciated for the emotional brilliance, depth of meaning and healing power of these rituals.

The first was astonishingly on the eve before his inauguration. Biden intuited the necessity of bringing the country together for a “national moment of unity” in grief. We had not yet experienced this needed public embrace. It incorporated elements of religious traditions such as the 400,000 candles along the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, a moment of silence and 400 bell tolls at the National Cathedral to symbolically honor the COVID-19 dead.

January 19, 2021, on the eve before Inauguration, remembering 400,000 Covid deaths

Across the country, hundreds of communities, cities, and tribes joined the tribute. This noncontroversial, tender experience of our common humanity undergoing loss was an antidote to the last 4 years.

The Need to Mourn

The capacity to fully experience grief and mourning is a psychological achievement. The ability to mourn is a function of the ability to love, to be a whole person, to form attachments and to feel loss. These are signs of psychological health and maturity.

The potential for individuals to attain this capacity is cultivated in the context of healthy, loving families, communities and cultures that have rituals, language, support, recognition, safety, community and psychological space to encourage this precious, painful human necessity.

This has special significance now after four years of splitting. Let me explain.

Melanie Klein’s Psychological Positions

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Diane Perlman, PhD   is a clinical and political psychologist, devoted to applying knowledge from psychology, conflict studies and social sciences to designing strategies and policies to reverse nuclear proliferation, to drastically reduce terrorism, reduce enmity, and to raise consciousness about nonviolent strategies for tension reduction and conflict transformation. She is a visiting scholar at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, is active in Psychologists for Social Responsibility, the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, and on the Global Council of Abolition 2000. Some of her writings can be found on her websites,  and Email:

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