Cinderella and the Loss of Father Love

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Drawing on her many years of psychology training and client therapy, Jacqueline Schectman, director of training for the Jung Institute of Boston, makes a comparison between the four archetypes in Cinderella and the stages of grief families and children she treats in therapy. In her article, she describes a step-mother who, rather than hostile and unfeeling, seems to present a structure and truth to an abandoned little girl; step-sisters who are themselves reeling from unacknowledged grief; and a father who has withdrawn into his own pain resulting from the loss of his wife. Using experiences she has shared with children and families in her practice, Schectman uses the storyline, both overt and subtle, to help her understand where children and their families are at a given point on the path of recovering from loss. To this end, she uses not so much Cinderella’s loss of her mother, but rather, the absence of her father’s attention despite his physical presence. In looking at the actual words of the story Cinderella, even a casual reader is left wondering why her father would allow callous treatment of his child by his new wife and step-daughters. What Schectman brings to light, however, is that every member of the family is engaged in grief, though this isn’t spelled out directly. Anyone who has suffered through a death of a close family member or the loss of a relationship would recognize the behavior exhibited by the step-mother and daughters as being not only understandable, but expected. By tying the tale of this family, and the part each person plays in the story, together with notes from family therapy, Schectman easily paints a picture for the reader to see how quietly and without notice fathers can become emotionally absent in a fractured family relationship. She takes this a step further by describing the real emotions and actions that the other family members endure and the benign actions that lead up to the “wicked step-child” and...
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