Although contemporary psychology claims that the self is related to one’s social and material world, elaborations of how this process occurs are few. The process is developmental in nature, as it entails the transformation of the present person-world relationship. From this perspective, how one establishes a relation to the grave after the loss of a loved one is a challenging topic for study: The grave is an aspect of the material world which is not only intimately related to the social world (with the deceased), but also to the flow of time as a meeting point of past and future in one’s present here-and-now context. From a microgenetic developmental perspective, the grave is seen as transformed into a polyvalent personal symbol in one’s attempt to make sense of life, death, and dying, as well as one’s own unknown future. Further, using the grave as a symbol, one can continue to relate to the deceased through the construction of an internal dialogue. Rather than being characterized by rationality or logic, this process implies the transcendence of the world ‘as-is’ by the future-oriented ‘as-if-could-be’, in which both the person and the world as-is, as well as the person’s constructed past, are transformed. From an ontogenetic developmental perspective, it is argued that this as-if mode of approaching and making sense of the world is not inferior or immature, but is rather an important characteristic of human development across all age groups. Interview data clearly show the role of as-if functioning in self-reorganization in adults following the loss of a loved one. The process of self-reorganization centers on the grave as both a physical and symbolic entity and an internalized dialogic partner.

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