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Chapter Six: Study #2: The first talk to one’s child about death

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

“When Nana died” (Alapack, 2001b; 2005b; 2006a) is an intimate study. It is a triple first: my first conversation about death … with my first child … whom death was visiting for the first time. Nicole, my beloved daughter, was four years two months old at the time of this first “appointment”. Ruth, her Nana, her mother’s mother, died of cancer. Since this death also mattered fiercely to me, the universe scheduled me an appointment. About this “imperative moment,” I feign no neutrality or disinterest. I am a living witness. Coiled within the spiral of events, I never pretend to stand outside them. The data itself is the story. My narrative hides nothing. Its warmth and transparency showcase Aristotle’s affirmation: one is wise to seek no proof about what is self-evidently true. Like “Vigilance,” this story is existential, but not a myth or an interpretative story. I wear no mask of an “implicated alien,” not by a long shot! Here comes an unvarnished account of a fragile father, flying by the seat of his pants, reflectively highlighting its sense and drawing from it general psychological insights.

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Chapter Seven: Study #3: When home shatters: The death of a brother or sister

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

The tale of sibling grief implicates you and me. If you are blessed with a brother or sister, you are vulnerable to loss. Unless he and I die together, by fluke—or in a nuclear holocaust—Nick (whom you already know from my “Vigilance” myth) will survive my death, or vice versa. But my brother is still alive and my only sibling. Therefore, unlike my downright raw presentations of my mother’s dying and my talk with Nicole at her Nana’s death, this chapter is based upon my experiences once removed from being a participant. However, I gained knowledge and absorbed sensitivity as advisor to Freda Woodrow’s (2006) doctoral dissertation at the University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Like unto the above mentioned portraits, nonetheless, my narrative communicates the experience with my hearthead. I tell the whole tale in a nutshell, using ordinary speech. Everyday language captures its emotional resonance. It also spits out, as it were, all the ambiguities that plague sibling grief. The story reads fresh. It’s full of noise. If you have experienced the death of your sibling, I will only judge the story adequate if it should draw you into your own grief episode such that you lose your place in my text … to find your place within your own. If it provokes memories, may it also evoke emotions, even trigger tears. Although Woodrow shares the credit for this earnest and engaged chapter, she deserves none of its blame.

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Chapter Ten: Re-visioning death: In Heidegger

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

Most of us do not know it, but unborn babies within their mothers’ wombs communicate with each other. As a matter of fact, where there are several pregnant women in a neighbourhood, the little embryos chatter daily about the news of their little world.

Now it happened that in one neighbourhood, there were several pregnant mothers and one was carrying twins. And all the other embryos were very proud that they had twins among them. The twins, too, were very glad to have each other.

But then, one of the twins was born premature, and the other twin was left alone in the womb. And when all the other little embryos in the neighbourhood heard of it, they quickly began to call the remaining twin, and all said: “We’re so sorry that your brother was born.”5

 

Sooner or later somebody in the Western world was bound to emerge to give death its due. Somebody had to comprehend it, not just as concocted in abstract arbitrary ideas, but in the way that we humans actually live it. Someone had to wrest it away from the philosophers and theologians who had framed it such to support Authority—to protect the Power and Money of governments and the Church. Somebody had to arrive who was sufficiently gifted to express an alternative Vision. Such a thinker never could have emerged from within the Club of committed professional rationalists. In fact, Martin Heidegger appears on the historical scene. He replaces the Occident’s substantive way of thinking with a relational one. He gives death … a life of its own.

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Chapter Nine: The depressive position

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

In this chapter, I present a myth of human growth in order to elaborate and demonstrate the significance of the cardinal notions of splitting in the ego (self), the depressive position, and forgiveness. Historically, myth and stories are mankind’s most common way to make knowledge-claims. The current preference for posi-tivistic natural science merely expresses modernity’s myth. That myth, unfortunately, shrinks the psyche and freezes the living heart. It narrows the human being to a one-dimensional creature by privileging non-involvement, the sur-face of humanity, and the superficiality of (cognitive) behaviour. This modern scientific myth, nonetheless, has become our sacred cow and our new religion. Currently, voices mount to challenge its hegemony as the standpoints of Nietzsche and Heidegger now gradually seep into our postmodern culture. However, the structures of Power and Money shelter it.

Herein, I present a more adequate myth for comprehending the two (psychical) and three-dimensional (spiritual) faces of sorrow. How do I compose it? The myth, “Felix culpa,” the happy fault, starts with a Kiergegaardian self-search or psychological autopsy. Such reflective work yields a preliminary understanding of my own personal experiences with my three children, three granddaughters, and with clients. The pivot of this work is this: I can verify what I say within my own experience. Then I seek other neutral input, weaving scholarly knowledge into the myth. Specifically, I integrate key anthropological facts, clinical data from psychoanalysis, and experimental psychological findings. In the most comprehensive sense, this myth provides the framework for including moral and spiritual issues within psychotherapeutic work. In particular, it clarifies both the power of forgiveness in the drama of grief, and helps us to comprehend the dynamics of regret, revenge, and suicide.

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Chapter Twenty Three: Unconcluding reflections

Richard J. Alapack Karnac Books ePub

One last raking through the ashes … The substance of the book is now complete. But it does not conclude. I cannot even wind down. Because why? It glares with significant absences. Important topics not treated include: the death of a child which is grief writ large; an individual’s homesickness, most powerfully expressed by asylum seekers turning into exiles and expatriates, as racism mushrooms across the globe; euthanasia, a grief-riddled phenomenon as shabbily treated by the guardians of the social order as suicide; abortion, that leaves two people vulnerable to grief and regret; torture, shamefully legitimized by academia’s finest minds on rational—but not heartfelt—grounds; men and women who are suffering shame at being the Face of the Disease of AIDS … even as they slowly die; and poverty’s unremittingly ugly grief which I merely touch upon by citing Stuffed and Starved (Patel, 2008).

In this historical “moment,” poverty is indeed the harbinger of the most acute anguish still to come. Two hundred million neighbours are starving even as the price of rice and petrol has risen from high to bizarre and the wide gap between the destitute and the wealthy has become a Grand Canyon. An implicit metaphor in this book is this: while our neighbours are destitute and dying of starvation, the rational community flounders. It is handicapped by fatally flawed rationalistic thinking and therefore incapable of balancing concern with greed. The poor did not create the economic crash of 15 September, 2009, but it has worsened their plight.

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