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Ornstein, A. (2010). The Missing Tombstone: Reflections on Mourning and Creativity. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 58(4):631-648.

(2010). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 58(4):631-648

Plenary Address

The Missing Tombstone: Reflections on Mourning and Creativity

Anna Ornstein

There are differences as well as similarities between mourning occurring after the loss of a single individual under ordinary civilized conditions, and mourning after multiple losses under traumatic conditions. A brief review of the psychoanalytic theory of mourning articulated by Freud in 1917 and modified in the 1960s is followed by an equally brief review of the relationship between artistic creativity and mourning. Because survivors of major disasters who suffer multiple losses need time to recover before they can engage the emotionally demanding task of mourning, the mourning process in these cases is frequently delayed. “Memorial spaces” appear to facilitate delayed mourning because such spaces are responsive to a deeply felt need by survivors of major tragedies to articulate what they experience as unspeakable and unshareable. The memories and the pain associated with them are then welcome because mourning is not about forgetting; mourning is about remembering, a process that may take a lifetime.

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