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Rendely, J. (1999). The Death of an Analyst: The Loss of A Real Relationship. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(1):131-152.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(1):131-152

The Death of an Analyst: The Loss of A Real Relationship

Judith Rendely, Ph.D.

Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak, knits up the o'er wrought heart and bids it break.

William Shakespeare, Macheth

AS WE WERE BEGINNING OUR SIXTH YEAR of work together my analyst developed pancreatic cancer and died. This article, a discussion of the plight of the bereaved patient, examines the aftershocks of an analyst's death, exploring the ramifications of a sundered analytic relationship from the perspective of the analysand. Historically, little attention has been paid to the experience of the grieving analysand. When an analyst dies, the analysand has lost both the analysis and an intense, personal, real relationship. The analytic work has stopped, but the feeling of connection and attachment continue to endure. The analysand must mourn, but grief is complicated by the premature rupture of the attachment, by boundaries that cannot be breached, by social isolation from the rituals of mourning, by transferences that have been only partially worked through, by loss occurring before internalization is secure, and by the reluctance of the analytic community to acknowledge the significance of the analysand's real relationship with the analyst she has lost. The trauma of the analyst's death may be softened if the analytic community actively acknowledges the difficulty of the analysand's position,


My deep appreciation for assistance with this manuscript and for support during my mourning is due my children, Adam Gershenson and Amy Gershenson, M.A. My thanks to Dan H. Buie, M.D. for guiding me through the grieving process, encouraging my desire to write this essay, and thoughtfully reacting to my ideas. And my gratitude to Rita Hurwitz, Ph.D. and Karen Roos, L.I.C.S.W., B.C.D. for their helpful suggestions.

Versions of this article were presented to the Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis, Inc. October 25, 1997; the Massachusetts Association for Psychoanalytic Psychology, February 25, 1998; the Division of Psychoanalysis (39), American Psychological Association, April 24, 1998; the American Psychoanalytic Association, December 19, 1998.

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