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The Art of Narrative PsychiatryStories of Strength and Meaning$
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SuEllen Hamkins

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199982042

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199982042.001.0001

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Finding Lost Stories of Love: Remembering Love and Legacy amid Loss

Finding Lost Stories of Love: Remembering Love and Legacy amid Loss

(p.129) Chapter Seven Finding Lost Stories of Love: Remembering Love and Legacy amid Loss
The Art of Narrative Psychiatry

SuEllen Hamkins

Oxford University Press

“‘I have no son Danny,’” Daniel said, with bitterness. “That’s what my father said to me when he was near death. Thirteen years ago, I go to see him in the hospital, and he’s there in the bed with tubes coming out of him. I go up to him and he says, ‘Who’s that?’ and I say, ‘It’s your son, Danny’, and he says, ‘Danny who? I have no son Danny.’” Daniel’s face bore traces of sadness and anger. “Just before he died he denied me.” Daniel Francis O’Conner, a spirited man of sixty-seven, sat perched in the middle of the couch in my bright, airy private-practice office. He had the time and resources to engage in weekly, open-ended psychotherapy with me. With a short white beard, sparkling blue eyes, a quick smile that lit up his whole face, and a readiness to laugh at himself and the world, Daniel had an equal readiness to hold himself and the world to high standards of generosity, morality, and justice. I looked forward to our meetings, in which Daniel moved from one story of his life to another with eloquence, grit, irony and humor like a true seanachaí , an Irish storyteller. A lifelong resident of Holyoke, a tough little city in Massachusetts known for its historic mills and factories, Daniel shared the feisty passion of its Irish-immigrant residents. He was married to his beloved wife, Molly, and they had two grown children, Brigid, age 30, and James, 25. A published poet who was newly retired from thirty-two years as an awardwinning high school English teacher and long retired from boxing, Daniel was exploring a new career as a psychotherapist. He had met me at a workshop on narrative psychiatry that I had given at The Family Institute of Cambridge (the one in which I had presented my work with Elena, from chapter 5), and wanted to work with me, with hopes of taking stock of what his legacy might be as he prepared to enter his seventies.

Keywords:   Finnegan's Wake, Great Hunger, Holocaust, Nuremberg Trials, Silver Gloves Championship, Works Progress Administration (WPA), freedom, imaginary time, immigration, mythic stories, therapeutic letters

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