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Miller, F.C. (2006). Successful Mourning: Maternal Loss and Grieving by Proxy in Fly Away Home. Psychoanal. St. Child, 61:275-293.

(2006). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 61:275-293

Applied Psychoanalysis

Successful Mourning: Maternal Loss and Grieving by Proxy in Fly Away Home

Frederick C. Miller, M.D.

Fly Away Home is a captivating movie which beautifully portrays how profound losses can result in successful mourning. Movies can have lasting appeal when they convey universal themes such as loss and restitution in ways that not only illustrate underlying psychoanalytic processes but also confirm, clarify, or contradict them. A review of the literature on mourning reveals a preponderance of extrapolations from examples of unsuccessful grieving, resulting in an emphasis on a pathological perspective of an otherwise natural process. In Fly Away Home an adolescent girl whose own mother has recently died adopts orphaned goslings. They imprint on her as their mother, and she must learn to fly an airplane in order to lead them on their first migration. In doing so she eventually demonstrates a variety of displaced enactments of the consolidation of a healthy maternal identification, or grieving by proxy. The movie also illustrates the risks of loss manifested as injury or defectiveness, the father as a temporary maternal proxy, the reconstruction of a new family, and the resumption of adolescent development, which are discussed in this paper as important components of this natural process of loss and restitution resulting in successful grieving.

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