Maslow and Human Love/Loss

Fulfilled Need that Is Lost

Humanity in the fallen world has numerous needs to maintain existence.  Among the most basic needs are food and water.   Instinctively within human nature is a drive for to satisfy hunger and thirst, as well as drives to reproduce.  These are natural evolutionary forces that push the human person to exist and perpetuate the species.   In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Maslow lists basic needs of existence as the base of all needs.  Following these needs are needs of safety and shelter.  Beyond that is a more complex social need of belonging and love.  Following this basic social need, is a mental need to perform and succeed in certain areas and talents that help manifest self esteem.   Still even beyond those accomplishments, there needs to be a self actualization of self that recognizes one has met one’s fullest potential.  Finally, after all these physical, social and mental accomplishments, one needs to find an existential or spiritual idea of meaning and tie that meaning into one’s life (Myers & Dewall, 2019, p. 351).  Hence humanity has many needs to find completeness .

One of Maslow’s needs is social fulfillment, When death happens, this need becomes unmet and leads to the grieving process


When these basic needs are denied or removed, one can experience a sense of loss.  Human loss is more than merely losing a loved one but is an assortment of losses that range from the everyday minor issues to other losses that include home, shelter, job, career, relationships, or lack of success.  Some of these loses are losses related to physical events, while other losses are more abstract, ambiguous or anticipated (Kastenbaum & Moreman. 2018, p. 374-375).

Attachment is key to any type of loss.  John Bowlby observed that the greater the attachment to something, the greater the loss reaction (Kastenbaum & Moreman, 2018, p. 378).  Hence grief is a simple formula of losing a vital attachment and learning to adjust without it.  The problem is the adjustment.  Especially when one considers the core of human needs includes love, being loved and belonging.  When someone is ripped away from another, these needs are now unfulfilled and lead to an adjustment period referred to as the bereavement period.  Ironically, there is no true period of grieving but a life long reaction to adjustment of the absence of that love.  Some proceed through the adjustment period without pathology, while others are able to better cope.

Kubler Ross gave various stages to the adjustment of loss.  Denial, anger, sadness, negotiating and acceptance became the 5 classic steps to grieving ( Kastenbaum & Moreman. 2018, p. 380). However, while these emotions clearly are part of the grieving process, one cannot neatly place grief into stages.  Grief instead is messy.  Grief oscillates from extremes and reverts back and forth between different emotions. (Bonano, G. 2019, p.40).  Ultimately, the person must perform the needed grief work to adjust to the new status.  The person must search for meaning in the loss (Wolfelt, A.

This is why Robert Neimeyer’s work on Meaning Reconstruction is so key to overall healing.  Neimeyer looks to connect past, present and future, pre-loss and post-loss into one story of a person’s life.  The loss must be incorporated into the full narrative of the human person (Worden, J. 2009, p. 5-6).   This incorporates the loss more fully into the person’s existence and finds meaning in the loss itself.  It also helps the individual realize that while the loss and absence of love physically exists, the continued bond in memory and in life itself still exists.  The love that was shared is a part of one’s life and continues to shape oneself.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly illustrates the necessity of love, being loved and belonging, but when these things are torn away through loss, a serious grief reaction occurs and individuals need to understand how to cope and incorporate loss into life.

Motivation to Find the Beloved

In psychological studies, the person is driven by motivation.  Motivation is defined as “need or desire that energizes and directs behavior” (Myers & Dewall. 2019, p. 349).  In addition to genetic and evolutionary drives, one is also driven to certain goods via an arousal of the psychological state that looks to decrease that desire through obtaining or fulfilling it.  This is referred to as Drive-Reduction Theory (Myers and Dewall. 2019, p. 349).

There is a continued drive to remained connected with the deceased


The need and drive finding the beloved after loss is definitely a natural and evolutionary urge.  The process of bereavement helps the individual react and adjust through a series of emotions to understand the loss itself.  This can be difficult at first to rationally understand, since emotionally charged events are first deciphered through Amygdala.  This short road is far more emotional and reactionary to an initial loss (Myers and Dewall. 2019, p. 370).   Charged emotions respond to this drive to find the lost or deceased person.  This is why denial is so common when a horrible event occurs.

Emotion plays a large role in one’s appetites and how one is pushed towards or pulled away from an object.  According to Myers and Dewall, emotion itself is the response of the whole organism from physiological arousal, expressive behaviors and conscious experience (2019, p. 369).  Within the list of emotions, many scientists differ what are the core base emotions, but most concede that anger, fear, disgust, sadness and happiness are the basic human emotions (Myers and Dewall. 2019, p.369). Others also include interest, shame, guilt, as well as pride and love (Myers and Dewall. 2019, p. 369).

Obvious sadness is a key emotion related to loss.  The desire to return to a normal state of existence and the inability to do so frustrates the will and the absence of the beloved causes intense sadness.  Sadness as an emotion helps readjust but it also is beneficial as a social key in illustrating to others a sign of distress.  Due to various cues of facial expressions one can infer another person is struggling (Bonano, G. 2019, p. 31).   So while the bereaved is motivated internally and naturally to find the deceased, the function of sadness helps the person find adjustment and understanding overtime of the loss.

The drive to continue the bond with the deceased is not pathological, as past Freudian views pointed out ( Kastenbaum & Moreman. 2018, p. 379).  Instead it healthy to continue the bond through spiritual practice or memorialization.  Successful grieving in fact involves this continuation of the bond (Bonano, G. (2019, p. 140).   However, there are limits to healthy continuation of the bond and pathological.  Healthy coping will continue the bond in a non maladaptive way that accepts the loss and permits everyday existence but unhealthy bonding can be illustrated in cases such as clinging to possessions of the deceased (Bonano, G. 2019, p. 141).   This clinging is far different than keeping a few objects, but this pathological reaction involves extreme hoarding of past possessions and refusal to move forward.  In fact, in some cases, the room is left perfectly as was prior to the death (Bonano, G. 2019. p.140).

Hence one can understand the extreme motivational drive and need to maintain a bond with the deceased even after the death has occurred.  It is a healthy drive but one that needs moderated.


Psychological needs to love, be loved, belong and maintain those bonds is a key drive within the human person.  When these things are frustrated, the drive continues to push forward in the process of bereavement.  Overtime, this drive adjusts but it takes time to adjust to loss.

Emotions are key to expressing ourselves. Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification



Please also review AIHCP’s Grief Counseling Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals.  The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Grief Counseling.


“Exploring Psychology” 11th Edition. Myers, D & Dewall, N. (2019). Worth Publishers: Macmillan Learning, NY

“Other Side of Sadness”. Bonano, G. (2019). Basic Books, NY.

“Death, Society and Human Experience” 12th Edition. Kastenbaum, R. & Moreman, C. (2018). Routledge, NY and London.

“Understanding Your Grief” 2nd Edition.  Wolfelt, A.  (2021). Companion, Fort Collins, CO.

“Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy”. 4th Edition. Worden, J. (2009). Springer Publishing Company, NY

Additional Resources

“Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs”. Mcleod, S. (2023). Simply Psychology. Access here

“The Value of Sadness”. Firestone, L. (2015). Psychology Today.  Access here

“What is Attachment Theory? Bowlby’s 4 Stages Explained”. Ackerman, C. (2018). Access here

“16 Tips for Continuing Bonds with People We’ve Lost”. Williams, L.  (2014). What’s Your Grief?  Access here