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Varney, S. (2014). Perinatal Loss and Its Vicissitudes. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 13(1):51-63.

(2014). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 13(1):51-63

Perinatal Loss and Its Vicissitudes

Susan Varney

Perinatal loss remains a persistent tragedy among the many risks pregnant and birthing mothers must face. Despite the prevalence of stillbirths and postnatal deaths, however, there is little discussion of the unique therapeutic demands that such losses bring to treatment. This article explores the many challenges faced by grieving parents for whom the experience of life and death has been so painfully fused. Part of what distinguishes a perinatal loss from other forms of loss is the conflicting need to “hold on” and “let go” at the same time, a conflict that brings with it unique challenges that have to be acknowledged and worked with if treatment is to progress. I examine the case of a young professional couple in their struggle to accept the reality of their daughter’s death. I suggest that an important component of treatment is the development of a “psychic life” for the lost infant in the minds of the parents so that that s/he can be mourned, remembered, and recalled. Both parents exhibited a temporal disorientation as their future was taken from them and they instead find themselves haunted by ghosts from their past. We worked to articulate an affective and conceptual framework in which their loss could be integrated into a new vision of their future.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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