Multivalent Grief

“How can I answer that?”

Spoilers for Psychonauts 2′s ending and postgame.

In the postgame of Psychonauts 2, Raz shares a sobering moment with his father Augustus. Raz asks, “How do you feel about Nona now?” Augustus’s response achingly reverberates with those grieving: “How can I answer that? She’s at the center of so many painful events.”

Feelings and temporalities tied to grief are difficult to name, encounter, and grapple with. We grieve the friends and the loved ones that we know, knew, or won’t know. We grieve the version of the person that we remember all while balancing these sorrows, joys, and disappointments that different versions of them exist in the memories of others. These are versions that we never knew and now never will. Our grief becomes multivalent as it is shared between and amongst mourners.

Augustus’s response realizes this multivalent form of mourning. New perspectives on past events shake Augustus’s long-held memories and beliefs of who Nona was/is (in turn, who Maligula was/is). The stories of those sanctified and villainized by time become more nuanced and messy than memory alone let on. Nona’s multivalency complicates Augustus’s grief.

His response negotiates these multiple perspectives. He grieves this loved one that he confidently knew and at the same time didn’t. A familiar tension for those of us mourning a loved one who suffered and also caused (and continues to cause) pain or anxiety. This tension is felt in our grieving of the only version we were invited to know, only to realize their pain after their passing. 

Augustus peers into the pain that Nona may have never wanted to share. Departure lifts the curtains to life portraits the dead might not have wanted us to see.

By Clinton Morrison Jr.

Clint Morrison, Jr. is a writer, gamer, educator, and medievalist currently based out of Columbus, OH. His writing can be found at

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