chapter  5
Jacob: THE INABILITY TO MOURN
Pages 18

A JEWISH MAN WHO SPENT THE FIRST 17 MONTHS of his life in hiding in Nazi-occupied Belgium, Jacob first entered therapy at the age of 27, when he was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. During Jacob's treatment with a young psychiatrist under Dr. Volkan's supervision, it became clear that Jacob was in a state of complicated mourning for his Holocaust survivor father, who had died when Jacob was 12. Like the two young men described by Freud (1927) who had lost their fathers as children, Jacob used splitting and vacillated between two assumptions: "one being that his father was still alive and was hindering him from action, and the other being that his father was dead which gave him the right to regard himself as his successor" (p. 156). While we recognize that there were additional personal reasons that contributed to Jacob's extreme difficulties, these personal elements were typical of what is familiar from other clinical work with complicated mourners. What is most interesting here is the role of the Holocaust's legacy in Jacob's perennial mourning. As we eventually learned, the matrix of Jacob's self-representation was saturated with the Nazi period to such an extent that it could not allow him to grieve his father's death.