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Silver, D. (1983). Epilogue. Psychoanal. Inq., 3(3):543-544.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 3(3):543-544


Donald Silver, M.D.

In julius caesar, shakespeare observes that “There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” So it is with mourning. By virtue of the impact, indeed, the momentousness, of the experience of loss, mourning invariably constitutes a “tide in the affairs of men.” When seized at the “flood,” i.e., when embraced as a universal challenge inviting adaptation and creative reintegration, mourning can have an energizing effect; when the broadened vistas of human experience that grow out of mourning issue in new aesthetic sensibilities and more profound and lasting artistic achievements, we witness perhaps the most optimal of all the outcomes of human loss. Correspondingly, the failure to wrestle with one's grief at the “flood,” i.e., the failure to make one's mourning subserve adaptive and creative ends, can be devastating. To be immobilized by grief and thereby victimized by loss is surely to voyage through life “bound in shallows and in miseries.” Mourning, then, as a “tide in the affairs of men,” is a crossroads, a critical juncture that may eventuate either in pathological impasse or adaptive achievement. To be sure, the outcome of loss and mourning is seldom so black or white, and in the contributions to this issue of Psychoanalytic Inquiry, we have seen the range of creative solutions, some more satisfactory than others, accessible to the gifted among us. But the recognition of loss and mourning as a paramount human challenge mobilizing some adaptive response and inviting some form of creative reintegration—this is surely the guiding thread informing the work of all the artists examined in these pages. As analysts, we understand this psychological mandate all too well.

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