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Bowlby, J. (1961). Processes of Mourning. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 42:317-340.

(1961). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 42:317-340

Processes of Mourning

John Bowlby

Although we know that after such a loss the acute state of mourning will subside, we also know we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else. And actually this is how it should be. It is the only way of perpetuating that love which we do not want to relinquish (Freud, 31a).


In the preceding paper, Grief and Mourning in Infancy and Early Childhood(13), evidence was presented that the responses to be seen in infants and young children to loss of mother are, at the descriptive level, substantially the same as those to be observed when the older child or adult loses a loved figure; and it was argued that the underlying processes are probably similar. Both, it was contended, required the same description, namely mourning; in both age-groups the subjective experience appeared to be that of grief. Furthermore, in reviewing the psycho-analytic literature, it seemed that some of the implications of such losses had been overlooked. On the one hand many analysts seem not to have identified the processes in question as those of mourning or, if they have, to have believed that they differ radically from mourning in adults; on the other, some analysts have placed so much emphasis on grief and mourning arising from weaning and loss of the mother's breast that they have tended to become preoccupied with events of the first year to the neglect of later ones.

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