Nelson Mandela & Replacement Dynamics

As I have mentioned before, I keep encountering references  to replacement dynamics everywhere. This seems to be a testament to how common they are, despite the fact that we rarely discuss them.

I am reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom. I was sorry to learn that he and his first wife, Evelyn,  lost a child early in their marriage. When another daughter was born six years later they gave the subsequent child the same name as their deceased daughter. Mandela explains “In our culture, to give a new child the name of a deceased child is considered a way of honoring the earlier child’s memory and retaining a mystical attachment to the child who left too soon.”

A need to hold on to the deceased in some way seems to be a desire that transcends most or all cultures. The impulse to try to replace a loss also seems to be an inherently human and common response.

As I have said in other posts, it can be a very healthy and normal need to have another child after a loss. I think that we need to view this impulse to replace with understanding and compassion. Of course the needs and separate identity of the subsequent child need to be understood and respected as well.

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