The Grief of Mothers

Summer Suleiman

December 15, 2023

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The Grief of Mothers

Last week I was on the train from Porto to Lisbon after meeting a friend and her mother who were visiting from San Francisco. 

It was a brief respite from the heart aching state of the world.

On the train ride home, one of my dearest friends, Hartley, texted to check on me. Messages like hers have helped carry me through the heavy heartedness of the past two weeks.

We opted for a quick FaceTime because the gravity of some things just cannot be expressed through text message.

When she asked how I was coping, I told her that I just couldn’t stop seeing the children in my mind. 

It’s not the first time I’ve felt deeply impacted by the world’s events. I will never forget the SandyHook Elementary School Shooting. I can vividly recall being in a supermarket in Atlanta just days after the horrific massacre, and breaking down in tears at the sight of a child reaching for fruit with his mother.

At the time I was working at CNN, and the endless loop of images of the victims we were seeing took its toll on me and on many of my colleagues.

But yet, still, somehow this time the grief feels different – deeper, more intense, more acute. 

As I was listening to Hartley, who has been a steadfast pillar for me as I’ve navigated the shifting tides of new motherhood, she said something that helped me make sense of it. She said, I think as a mother, you feel grief differently.

That was it.

At that moment I realized that for the first time I was experiencing a tragedy of this scale as a mother. We often talk about the joy and love that motherhood can elicit, but not as often, the intense sadness it can also invoke.  Motherhood makes us experience grief and the darker, heavier emotions of human existence in a new, profound way.

In my own experience, I am finding that motherhood has unlocked scales of emotions and empathy that I didn’t know I had. 

Earlier this week I came across Asia Suler’s writing in Mothering Depth, and her words helped further cement what I think I have been feeling for the past two weeks.

“There’s grief, and then there’s the grief of a mother who knows what it means to love with her entire being. Who can look at every person on Earth and remember that they were once a child who needed to be held. Who cannot look away from the preciousness of life, not for a single moment.”

Perhaps it is this ‘mothergrief’ that Suler describes which has made me feel like there is a heaviness in my heart that I cannot seem to lift. The weight of a mother’s grieving heart.

I do not know how to begin to lift it, but I’ll leave you with some words that have brought me some much needed solace today in these unfathomable times. 

It is a Prayer of Mothers for Life and Peace, which I discovered through a fellow writer, Suleika Jaoud.

I hope it brings peace and comfort and it helps lift every one of our heavy hearts. Thank you for being here with me.



Summer Suleiman began her journalism career with CNN where she served as an International Assignment editor. She later covered entrepreneurship in the post-Katrina era, where she chronicled the experiences of entrepreneurs with a focus on underrepresented founders for over five years. Her interviews, articles and blog posts have been published on, the Huffington Post and Substack. Originally from New Orleans, she lives in Lisbon.

Summer Suleiman


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