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Aggression and guilt during mourning by parents who lost an infant

The authors conducted in-depth interviews with 38 mothers and fathers who had lost an infant. The focus of the interview was aggression and guilt during mourning work. The participants felt strong shame after separation. Phenomena such as strong irrational guilt, aggression, and hesitation toward others were similar to feelings typical of the paranoid-schizoid position. However, mourners did not lose their sense of reality, continued to do daily chores, and kept taking care of others. In this period, mourners were in disintegration, similar to individuals in the paranoid-schizoid position. Shame may be the feeling in the residue of the paranoid-schizoid position, through which they felt persecuted by others, their partner, relatives, and God. Their aggression was strong, but generally their aggression and impulses came to be used constructively and they progressed to integration. At the moment their children died, mourners fluctuated between disintegration and integration. After a certain interval, fluctuation subsided or integration predominated. In times of fluctuation, containers were very important for mourners to move toward integration. Participants reported changes in their lifestyle after the loss of a child. Mental health professionals should view aggressive impulses among such people during mourning not as an obstacle, but rather as a means to move toward integration. The authors speculate that a psychotherapist can serve as a container for mourners.


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