In the beginning
Bonding between parent and child can be affected by the disappearance of a child or other dear person; a grieving parent is often perceived as emotionally absent, even as “dead” (A. Green). When a missing person is mislocated (Bowlby) in a replacing child, attachment patterns and relations to self and others are compromised. Replacement children feel a void and an unconscious image of absence can take hold – instead of an image of true self that develops when a child is held, recognized and mirrored for who he or she is. Self-love and self-esteem as well as love of others can be affected. Projections or fantasies that the sibling (or other person) is not lost but has returned in the replacing child can conjure up images of “ghosts in the nursery” (Fraiberg) and result in ambivalent or even rejecting attachment patterns. The case of Delphine, in her late seventies, shows that it is never too late to let go of an attachment to an absent other and to consciously choose “yes to life” all the while acknowledging loss suffered in early bonding. If a replacement child has lost out on early secure attachment experience, it can rediscover images of the archetypal self in the unconscious and experience secure holding and mirroring in the therapeutic relationship, gaining new self-assurance. A replacement child can rekindle the “fire of life” when emergent images of self are recognized in therapy and the ego is strengthened.