The Inheritance of Loss


The Inheritance of Loss

A Therapist and Client Grieve Together

By Galit Atlas

July/August 2022


Our emotional inheritance shapes our behaviors, our perceptions, our feelings, and even our memories. From a young age, we learn to follow our parents’ signals; we learn to walk around their wounds, try not to mention and absolutely not touch what mustn’t be disturbed. In our attempt to avoid their pain and our own, we blind ourselves to that which is right before our eyes.

In “The Purloined Letter,” the third of Edgar Allan Poe’s three short detective stories, a letter is stolen from a woman’s boudoir. The reader doesn’t know the contents of that letter, but we know that it is secretive and forbidden. The police enter the house where they believe the letter is kept. They look everywhere, but they can’t find it. As it turns out, the letter is not hidden at all; it is in an ordinary card rack in plain sight and this confuses the police, who expect to uncover a secret truth.

We tend to assume that what we can see must be known to us, but in fact, so much of what we don’t know about ourselves lies in the familiar, sometimes even in the obvious. Often we realize that it is in fact right before our eyes, and still we can’t see it.

When I meet my patient Dana for the first time, I don’t know that her family traumas touch my own. My family trauma is unveiled and brought to life in the space between us, one ghost awakens another, and without awareness that brings us to new places.

My mother’s older brother drowned in the sea when he was 14 years old and…

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Topic: Grief

Tags: grief | grief and loss | loss



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