The Urgency of Mourning

The Urgency of Mourning
Michèle Laboureur

The position of mourning is an urgency that arises when faced with the loss of a close one. The hole that has opened in the real as a result of the disappearance cannot be filled[1] by signifiers so long as there is a lack in the signifier minus phi. In his Seminar on The Sinthome, Lacan speaks of the ex-sistence of the real, but of the hole of the symbolic.[2]

Freud indicates that the mourning process takes time. It consists in undoing the libidinal bonds that tie you to the deceased one.

The question arises: what was he for me? What was I for him? How am I to peel away from what I was for him? How am I to separate from him? This is one definition of the castration of the Other. Thus, this process seems to me to encounter a parallel with the identification that comes about by means of the trait, the identification with the unary trait.[3] Furthermore, Lacan comments on Freud, saying: “Mourning consists in authenticating the real loss little by little, piece by piece, sign by sign, element capital I by element capital I, until they are exhausted.”[4]

In the twenty-fourth Seminar[5], Lacan takes up the modes of identification[6] once more and articulates them with the topological models he had put forward, which are obtained by making different types of cut.

In mourning, we are sent back to our original distress. The reduction of the living being to the inanimate is a real that ex-sists, an impossibility. This is why Lacan turned to the Borromean knot and above all to topology, which clasps and accounts for this real.

It is a particular object, whose mourning was impossible for Hamlet: the mourning of the phallus, this being a term that Lacan also uses to designate what Freud called the Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex.[7] Lacan tells us that once Hamlet was mortally wounded, he renounced any narcissistic investment,[8] and then, “he identifies with the fatal signifier,” “with the mortal phallus.” [9]

Before referring identification to the three registers of I, S and R, Lacan specifies two types of identification: one signifying, the other related to the object a and which introduces a process of separation. This object a, discerned in the drive, is what introduces “the meaning of sex”, and “its significations are always capable of making present the presence of death.”[10]

Hence at the end of analysis, there is “the mourning of the object,” the fall of the object, where formerly stood the analyst, and separation from the object.[11]

1 Lacan, J., Le séminaire Livre VI, Le désir et son interprétation, Paris: Ed de la Martinière, 2013, pp. 398–9.

2 Lacan, J., The Seminar Book XXIII, The Sinthome, tr. A.R. Price, Cambridge: Polity, 2016, p. 25.

3 Cf, Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, tr. A. Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press, 1973.

4  Lacan, J., The Seminar, Book VIII, Transference, tr. B. Fink, Cambridge: Polity, 2015, p. 396.

5  Lacan, J., Lessons from L'insu que sait de l'une bévue s'aile à mourre, in Ornicar ? 12/13.

6  Presentation by J.-J. Bouquier in Analytica 46, 1986.

7  Lacan, J., The Seminar Book VIII, Transference, op. cit.

8 Lacan, J., Le séminaire Livre VI, Le désir et son interprétation, op. cit., p. 416.

9  Ibid., p. 392.

10  Lacan, J., The Seminar Book XI, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, op. cit., p. 257.

11 Lacan, J., « L’étourdit » in Autres écrits, Paris: Seuil, 2001, p. 486.