Healthy grief requires a multidimensional fluidity because it is multidetermined. The relative maturity of the mourning depends upon the biologic age of the mourner, the nature of the bond with the lost object, and by the existing defenses and psychic structures at the time of the loss. It depends on representation, recollection, reconstruction, internalization, symbolization, and narration of the experience. Roger Craik, a poet, who will read his poetry at the Mini Lecture on October 6, 2010 at 7:30 pm, narrates:
and you turn to wondering
how many people in America you know who’d come
within a stone’s throw of why it’s so
ecstatic being here, alone, with the just-arrived
mussels gaping in their funnel-bucket, candleshine-glistening fries,
and, a benison, the unexpected salad – and here you sit, ensconced,
magnificent, trencherman with three beers down, Christ yes,
of the strongest (a fourth is
swinging on its way) in a goblet, name embossed
beneath the stained-glass window of the abbey where it’s brewed –
and why, when who
in snatches through the din is heard
but twangle-gravelling old Jack J. C. Cash,
all sounding-board and strings and Folsom-drawled fidelity,
afresh it dawns
how miraculously torn you are
I’ll never toe a rule, or line, nor both or similar,
but swear myself henceforth to this:
the unpredictability of things
–and now the half-lit unpredictability of things—
which is the only truth there is.
Poetry, essays, painting and other forms of art, like elephants, never forget. Avoided, denied, somatoform, obsessional, displaced, incomplete, prolonged, or unending grief are all forms of unhealthy mourning.
Mourning mobilizes a process, which revives all prior losses and separations as well. It calls on the emotional revisiting of the deepest recesses of our mind’s and body’s organization and reworking of old memories. After a loss life is chaotic. Mature bereavement is dependent on a mature autonomous mind with a capacity for symbolization and mental strength sufficient to endure the annihilating effects of acute and prolonged grief without defensively preempting its full course to personal metamorphosis. Those with a healthy response mobilize mental (ego) strength, and are flexible. They tolerate being torn between these competing demands. Others can become too unyielding and rigid, seeking a perfect response to losses; however just moving on won’t do. Flexibility helps us maintain emotional stability and cope with internal and external stress. Life, even with chaos of fragments, has a creative, restorative and re-animating potential.
And gradually, one by one,
the old joys that were never truly gone
return themselves, deep in the green heart
of a foreign city; and in quiet
exhilaration you stroll round again,
wondering how you got it all so wrong
for so many years.
One hundred years ago psychoanalysts spoke of mourning in terms of decathexis, detachment and breaking of the bonds. A more current psychoanalytic perspective sees the important part of the journey of mourning as resuscitating the self -with-other that is reinvented and stretched to encompass the beloved or the hated in a life-affirming sensory reality. Healthy mourning leads to a transformation that revitalizes, even more, it leads to a metamorphosis that heals both in an inner and outer universe. Dr. Craik in his writing inspires his audience to remember a vitality that is possible to access when you get to rediscover yourself after losses.