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Shrapnel: latency, mourning and the suicide of a parent

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The aim of this paper is to describe some acute responses to the suicide of a parent, through the account of the analytic psychotherapy of a latency child who found the body of his dead father. The acute traumatic responses of the child show that the perceptual apparatus, time and space are subverted, while the functioning of the contact barrier is deeply damaged. The importance of the environment in facilitating the first stages of the mourning process is stressed as well as the pre-traumatic personality structure. Both the Bionian model of preconception and the post-Jungian notion of archetype, revisited in terms of an unsaturated predisposition, are considered from a theoretical point of view. Preconceptions and archetypal dispositions to survive traumatic events are very important to the therapeutic outcome, along with the opportunity to start the treatment as early as possible after the traumatic event. This is particularly relevant in relation to the latency period, in terms of the capacity to contemplate the effects of the drives. The importance of allowing the child to work through all the stages of mourning is also considered, particularly rage, protest and hostile fantasies towards the lost object. The clinical material is structured as a narrative in an attempt to evoke the emotional climate experienced during the sessions as well as the state of mind of the child. The narrative is a secondary elaborated account with condensation and displacement at its core, like in dream work. Events, filtered through the analyst's state of self, are reported by lending the first person to the child in the narrative reconstruction.
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Keywords: Parental suicide; acute trauma; archetype; latency; mourning; preconceptions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Via A. Baldissera 2, 20129,Milan, Italy

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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