Ever since it came out that Bachelorette Season 7 contestant West Lee’s first wife drowned in their bathtub in 2007 — and that the deceased’s mother feels West bears some kind of blame — fans of the show have been wondering what on earth would drive a man to search for love on national television after such a tragedy. Wetpaint asked psychologist and University of North Texas Regents Professor Dr. Bert Hayslip for his professional opinion of Lee’s controversial move.

Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC Television Group ©2011 Disney Photo: West Bachelorette Season 7 Promo Photo

“How people grieve, how they express it, is a direct function of the quality of their relationship with the person who’s died, as well as the manner in which they died,” Dr. Hayslip told us. “And of course it would also depend on whether he was happily married or not. There are so many variables involved. Interpreting someone’s behavior after someone’s died, you almost have to reconstruct things to understand it thoroughly.”

We wouldn’t normally associate the grieving process with trying to become a reality TV star, but the world is changing fast. “It’s a little unusual that he’s doing it so publicly, but I wouldn’t read anything into that to the extent that it suggests something nefarious is going on. It’s probably the avenue that he sees as most amenable to meeting someone and not feeling lonely. That’s a simplistic explanation, but that could easily be it. I mean, some people would not do anything, other people might cruise the bars and the clubs. Other people would wait to meet somebody at work. Maybe he just happened to choose this.”

If West did the show to seek some kind of closure, Dr. Hayslip warns, “What all grieving people want is that person back, and obviously that’s not possible. What’s most likely going on is that he is looking for some kind of comfort [in the] context of a new relationship. Most of us, when we think about grief we think about it in terms of, this takes a big part of you away. And so what ends up happening is that you come full circle in the sense that the part that’s gone is replaced by something else. You come full circle, but you’re not the same person you were before.

“We usually recommend that people not go out and try to make things normal again by replacing that person, because you’re never going to be able to replace somebody you care about. You can move on and form new relationships with other people, but it’s never going to be the same relationship you had with that person who died.”

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