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Eileen Simpson

  • Emotional damage is never easy to measure, but mothers who are alive but psychically absent impose filial burdens which knot their children's feelings in a way biologic orphans are spared.

  • Psychic orphanhood is not new ... What is new is putting a name to the feeling, articulating it as a concept. The popularization of psychoanalysis, together with an intensifying of an introspective point of view, was partly responsible for this change in the way people began to describe their early years. But equally important was a demographic factor. For hundreds of years, the word 'orphan' had been vividly associated with massive asylums and the pale, undersized inmates in institutional garb incarcerated within their walls. It was necessary for these associations to fade, as fade they did with the sharp decline in the number of orphans, before the word could be used as a simile: I felt like an orphan.

  • The United States, which has been called the home of the persecuted and the dispossessed, has been since its founding an asylum for emotional orphans. For over three hundred years, refugees from political oppression, religious persecution, famine, poverty, and a rigid class system which limited educational and economic opportunities have been leaving their native villages and cities and coming to the United States in search of freedom and a better life.

  • ... in coming to terms with the newly dead, I seem to have agitated the spirits of the long dead. They were stirring uneasily in their graves, demanding to be mourned as I had not mourned them when they were buried. I was plunged into retroactive grief for my father, and could no longer deny, though I still tried, the loss I'd suffered at the death of my mother. ... Was it possible ... that one could mourn over losses that had occurred more than half a century earlier?

Eileen Simpson, U.S. psychotherapist, writer

(1918 - 2002)

Full name: Eileen Patricia Mulligan Berryman Simpson Baine.