August 1972

The Linking Objects of Pathological Mourners

Author Affiliations

Charlottesville, Va
From the Department of Psychiatry, University of Virginia Medical School, Charlottesville.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1972;27(2):215-221. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1972.01750260061009

A study of adults involved in pathological response to the death of a loved/hated person discloses the use of controllable symbolic objects to perpetuate the link with the dead individual. Although resembling in some respects fetishes, transitional objects, and inherited items that are simply valued and put to appropriate use by a mourner, they are sufficiently specific in their function of maintaining psychophysical balance in the face of loss to be differentiated as unique entities. An externalization process is suggested by which linking objects provide a focal point in which the self-representation of the mourner merges with that of the dead person, and in which the painful work of mourning and ambivalent object relationship can be accommodated.