On May 11, 2021, “Smart Talk” of WITF, the NPR affiliate in central Pennsylvania, aired “Understanding grief through Mary Todd Lincoln’s life and experience.” The 38-minute program includes interviews with Callie Hawkins, Director of Programming at Lincoln Cottage and Julia Dunn, M.Ed., LPC and Clinical Director at Olivia’s House.
Lincoln Cottage is an historic museum northwest of Washington, D.C. where Abraham Lincoln made some of his most nation-changing decisions. Callie shares background about the exhibit “Reflections on Grief and Child Loss” which opened in November 2020 at Lincoln Cottage, as well as her personal experience as a grieving mother. Olivia’s House currently has centers in York and Hanover, PA. They are “..an organization of care giving professionals and volunteers committed to supporting grieving children…to facilitate healing through grief and loss education.”
While most of us will not have the opportunity to visit Lincoln Cottage to experience the exhibit, we believe the topic and conversation shared on the “Smart Talk” program is important. The exhibit posits that Mary Lincoln, who is often thought to have suffered from mental illness, may have actually been living with the grief of losing her two children and doing so in a way that was not customary at that time.
And it is safe to say that for many decades the symptoms of prolonged grief were mistakenly dismissed or misunderstood. Just this year the diagnosis of Prolonged Grief Disorder was added to the DSM-5 March 2022 release, a volume published by the American Psychiatry Association that defines and classifies mental disorders. From their website: “In the case of prolonged grief disorder, the duration of the person’s bereavement exceeds expected social, cultural or religious norms and the symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder.” With better understanding, support can be provided.
At Buzzy’s Bees our goal is to honor those who are grieving the unexpected loss of a young child, to hear them, and to provide resources. We salute the people at President Lincoln’s Cottage for devoting a special exhibit to grief and child loss.