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Karme, L. (1988). A Mother Dies, A Child Denies: The Reparative Psychoanalytic Process A Case Study. Psychoanal. Rev., 75(2):263-281.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Review, 75(2):263-281

A Mother Dies, A Child Denies: The Reparative Psychoanalytic Process A Case Study

Laila Karme, M.D., Ph.D.

Mary was born on the East Coast to a young newly married couple. Her father was an aspiring engineer embarking on a new career and a new family. Her mother was an attractive, athletic, competitive, and likable young woman. Shortly after Mary's second birthday her mother died after a few months of struggling with cancer. Reacting with hostility toward their son-in-law and granddaughter, the mother's bereaved parents irrationally held them responsible for their daughter's death and did not want, nor allow, any further relationship with them. The stricken father, overwhelmed by his own grief, the demands of a new job, and the responsibility for a motherless two-year-old daughter, decided to let his parents on the West Coast raise his child. Mary's own denial of this intolerable loss was reinforced by the family's conspiracy of silence.

Mary split off and denied this early history and settled in with her new surrogate parents, her paternal grandparents. She saw her father occasionally when he visited his parents but was left with few memories and impressions. At age four and one half her father remarried, and Mary was sent to live with this new family. She again changed her home and surroundings and her parental figures. Mary's new (step) mother was a chronically angry, domineering woman who further reinforced the family's silence about Mary's dead mother by forbidding any mention or sign of her. Mary's father became increasingly passive and chronically depressed in this marriage. In adapting to this new circumstance, Mary made yet another split and settled into believing her stepmother to be her real mother.

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