Mum's the word: Breaking silence through stories of very early mother-bereaved women

Mara Kirby (2001)

This study was an exploratory investigation of the responses of adult women who experienced the very early loss of their mother. Very early loss was defined in this project as that which occurred prior to the fifth birthday. The research question of this investigation was: What are the perceptions and experiences of adult women in mid-life of the loss of their mother as a very young child and its impact on them over time? The study explored how, with consideration to the age at which the loss occurred, qualities of the mourning process and accompanying loss sequelae might manifest throughout life. It appeared from the investigation that children from birth to four years old were unable to meet the criteria that have been established for normal mourning to occur. Consequently, subjects were at risk for pathological mourning and associated long-term loss sequelae, namely disruptions in object relationships; physical illness and somatic complaints; mental health problems and character disorders; enhanced creativity and precocity and ongoing grief. Interviews of eight adult women in mid-life, a stage of development characterized by self-reflection, who lost their mother from birth to four years old have added to the understanding of the relationship between very early mother loss, the very young child's ability to mourn, pathological mourning, and its manifestations throughout life.