Judging Mothers For Their Grief Must Come To An End

From The Washington Post:

“After my son died, I got really afraid that people would maybe judge me or think about me in the way that history has remembered Mary Lincoln,” she said. Which is to say, she was afraid they would think she was “crazy.”

In her lifetime, the former first lady lost her husband to an assassin’s bullet and three of her four children to disease. Her lengthy, public mourning defied conventions of the day and led to criticism and questions about her sanity.

This is how we talk about grief: not that it’s normal, not that it’s something to be tended and supported. Now, as it’s been throughout modern history, we treat grief as a disease. We’ve treated grieving mothers like they’re mentally ill – deserving of institutionalization.

Mothers’ grief has always been at the center of activism and demands for change. Mother’s Day began as an anti-war holiday: it was a commentary by, from, and for women on losing their husbands, brothers, sons and fathers to the machinery of war. The original Mother’s Day was a protest.

Grief is a mother’s issue. Grief is a women’s issue. Grief is a social justice issue. This Mother’s Day, we name the individual losses of motherhood, yes, and also the larger cultural sweep: the increased death rates for black mothers, the medicalization of grief for grieving mothers and women of all kinds, the policies of colonization, oppression, and exclusion that create grief for those mothering and those mothered. Mother’s Day is still a protest.

Follow this link to read the entire piece from The Washington Post about Mary Todd Lincoln and grief.

For more on Abraham Lincoln and grief check out the excellent novel Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

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