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Very often people have dreams where they’re killing someone who’s already dead – why was that necessary?Again, many rituals in different cultures involve someone being buried twice; there’s a first burial and then a year later, or six months later there’s another burial, which implies that now the person is finally laid to rest. This might seem trivial, but one of my patients makes a very fine distinction, when talking about his dead father, between letting go of him and letting him go and for him these two are radically, totally different things.
I was also curious as to why, after Freud’s essay on mourning and a few others, all the literature looks at the various phases we go through, the external manifestations of mourning, and it doesn’t really look at the unconscious processes.
In my practice, certain things kept cropping up for patients in the years following a bereavement, which indicated that things were moving along because changes had happened at an unconscious level. So, more than any of the other things I’ve written, this book comes from my patients, and trying to explore the logic behind what they are saying.
The most well-known stages of mourning were introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, which many are familiar with.
However you are quite critical of these stages; when I read your critique, it seemed almost sacrilege!
But the first question we have to ask is whether there is such a thing as ‘depression’, and this is one of ideas that the book slightly goes against.
It is saying that depression is different for different people, hence you have to attend and listen very, very carefully to what it is for each particular person.
Our culture often encourages us to do the opposite, which is to live in the same space as the dead: think of the internet memorial sites where you can stay in contact with the voice and the image of the dead person, or endless TV shows about dead celebrities.
The second indicator of the work of mourning is ‘killing the dead’.
Aissatou represented the modern woman that Ramatoulaye was envious of.
Over the years, I was very curious to see differences in the way that my patients responded to the relatively brutal experience of loss that happens with a bereavement.