All Right to Grieve
Cynthia Good Mojab, MS
like to add a few thoughts on grief. I'm a mental health professional who
has been trained to recognize the processes that people tend to undergo
when they experience a significant loss. Yet, I keep wondering why I'm
so tired, so unable to concentrate, etc. Grief is often easier to recognize
in someone else than in ourselves. I have to remind myself to be patient
and kind with myself, to give myself time…
we experience a loss, it naturally and humanly takes time to figure out
how to go on living without what was lost. When we lose a specific person,
perhaps it is easier for us to be able to claim the right to grieve. Yet
many of us are grieving the loss of unnamed thousands-as well as vague
things like a sense of security, a sense of invulnerability… Not only might
we ask, how can I laugh, we might ask, what right do I have to feel so
badly when I haven't lost someone personally-when my partner/child/friend/relative
is safely here with me.
of these feelings and questions and thoughts are all right. There is no
single right way to grieve, to learn how to live again. When we laugh and
love, we do not deny the reality of loss and death. Laughter and love and
loss and death are all a part of life. Some of us naturally and humanly
need to embrace life quickly as part of coping, some of us need to take
time first to feel the pain and confusion that come with experiencing a
loss. In reality, we are likely to go back and forth (in a given hour,
day, week, month, year...) between embracing life and experiencing loss.
It is all right to do so. We do not dishonor the dead by living. Neither
do we reject life by mourning. All of our emotions and reactions are there
for a reason. Grief is constructive: it is how we learn to live again,
in a different way than we were living before. This is a time for patience
and kindness toward ourselves and others.
isolation that many new mothers experience may be that much more painful
and risky when it happens within the context of pre-existing grief. I would
encourage all of us to take extra care in regard to the emotional well-being
of new mothers. How alone are they throughout their day? Have they had
the opportunity to share their grief with anyone? How are they feeling
in regard to what has happened? Mothers may find it very helpful (and even
essential) to be able to talk with a lactation consultant about how their
feelings about the terrorist attacks may be affecting how they feel about
their baby, about mothering, and about breastfeeding. Mothers need to know
that other mothers are struggling with grief on top of all the changes
that the birth of a new baby brings, that any sense of disconnection with
their baby does not mean that they do not love him, that they cannot love
him. Breastfeeding support groups offer more than support for breastfeeding.
Mothers also talk about the other joys and challenges in their lives-which
these days includes the horrible challenge of coping with the terrorist
attacks. We were not meant to mother alone. We were not meant to grieve
alone. This is a time to be together. Let's make extra effort to facilitate
we should not hesitate to refer mothers to mental health professionals
just because we are all grieving. Sometimes mothers need help to get through
grief. Sometimes lactation consultants do, too. Seeking help and support
is a sign of strength and maturity-whether it's talking to a trusted friend
or a trained counselor.
Cynthia Good Mojab, 2001. All rights reserved.
text was first posted on September 23, 2001 to LACTNET, a netlist for professionals
working in the field of breastfeeding and human lactation, in response
to multiple posts from colleagues dealing with grief and the terrorist
attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.