Charlotte Mathes is a Jungian analyst who has survived the unfathomable: the suicide of her son, Duncan. She did not train in Jungian thought until a few years after Duncan’s death, while she was continuing her journey of healing, and she uses the Jungian idea of archetype psychology to explain the process of grief and recovery after the loss of a child.
Her use of these archetypes is confusing for a lay reader, particularly as Mathes writes in a scholarly tone that can be a bit difficult to grasp at times, especially for parents who are grieving deeply. In addition to these archetypes (the Mother Archetype, the Nurse Archetype, the God Archetype), which Jung said reflect the collective unconscious, or “the innate psychological patterns that we share with all humanity,” Mathes invokes the use of myth, such as that of Demeter and Persephone, as well as examples from mothers who have lost children in war, through miscarriage, SIDS, suicide, HIV/AIDS and murder.
The book is at its strongest when Mathes relies on the voices of other mothers, as well as her own story, to discuss the experiences of grief. The addition of myth and archetype results in the book reading more like an academic tome than a book meant to help grieving mothers heal. Most of this analysis is in the first part of the book; the second part is more accessible to the reader with its many suggestions for healing, including ideas for journaling, artistic expression, and useful movies, music and useful rituals for anniversaries and birthdays.
With section titles such as “From Cartesian Dualism to A New Mind/Body Connection,” and “Rite of Passage: A Time of Liminality,” this book may be best left to counseling professionals, who may usefully incorporate some of Mathes’s more accessible ideas into work with grief groups or individual clients.