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Moskowitz, S. (2011). Primary Maternal Preoccupation Disrupted by Trauma and Loss: Early Years of the Project. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 10(2):229-237.

(2011). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 10(2):229-237

Themes Arising From the Support Groups

Primary Maternal Preoccupation Disrupted by Trauma and Loss: Early Years of the Project

Sally Moskowitz, Ph.D.

Working in the Project for Mothers, Infants, and Young Children of September 11, 2001, I focus in this article on some of the ways in which normal states of mind essential to “good enough mothering” were significantly disrupted and altered by the effects of trauma and loss following the events of September 11th. Themes mothers talked about and patterns of mother-infant/mother-child interaction observed during the first two years of the group are discussed in the contexts of pregnancy and Winnicott's concepts of primary maternal preoccupation and holding. Pregnancy, childbirth, new motherhood, loss, and trauma are all life-transforming events, each having particular states of mind, psychic tasks, and challenges associated with them. Although the mothers in our Project were heroic in their attempts to simultaneously experience and process these highly contradictory states, we found the work of mourning largely incompatible with the work of primary maternal preoccupation. It did not seem possible for the psyche to be consumed with the lost object in mourning and at the same time to be consumed with the infant in primary maternal preoccupation. This article also touches on the mothers' ongoing difficult task of telling their babies, now children approaching 10 years old, about their fathers and their fathers' deaths.

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