What I wish to convey at my workshop devoted to my book New Models of Bereavement Theory and Treatment: New Mourning is a new way of thinking about and treating experiences of mourning. I myself have had much bereavement in my life and recognized that my experience was not consistent with the standard view of mourning. In addition in my clinical psychoanalytic practice I encountered many bereaved patients who mourned in unique and very personal ways. Eventually I realized that the standard assumptions about bereavement and mourning might be incorrect. In fact I discovered in the psychological literature outside psychoanalysis that there were many researchers and clinicians making the same discovery. So after much writing and research I decided to put together a book of innovative psychoanalysts studying bereavement, and make available to readers the most up-to-date overview of psychoanalytic mourning theory available.
I hope that the audience takes away a greater appreciation for the diversity of bereavement experiences and the varied and highly personal ways that people mourn. This does not mean that there isn’t consistency, especially within a culture, but even so we need to be open to and have respect for each person’s unique experience.
Mourning is not just about pain and loss, but love – preserving our relationships with those we have lost, and making our lives richer and more meaningful. Rather than promoting a view of what is normal, we should celebrate the diversity and passion of mourning and grief. We as a society are too eager to put an end to it, impatient with people who continue in their sadness, urging them to “move on” and “get over it”. I hope my talk opens the reader’s eyes, and their hearts, to the creative, generative process of mourning. Bereavement is painful, but it is also an opportunity for personal and social growth – it can’t be rushed, or heaven forbid, discouraged.
The standard misunderstanding about mourning was that we must give up our relationship to those we have lost. Many people who remained loyal to, or perhaps even treasured, their relationships with deceased loved ones, were considered mentally ill, or at least stuck, resisting the expected process of detachment. I would like the audience to know that it is often the preservation of the tie to the dead, and the enrichment of the meaning that he or she gave to our lives which is central to bereavement and mourning.
Posted by George Hagman