Seneca wrote this consolation for a woman he knew named Marcia, who actively mourned the death of her son for over three years. He attempted to convince her that the fate of her son, while tragic, should not have been a surprise. She knew many other mothers who had lost their sons; why should she expect her own son to survive her? The acknowledgement, even expecation, of the worst of all possible outcomes is a tenet of Seneca's Stoic philosophy. While Seneca sympathised with Marcia, he reminded her that "we are born into a world of things which are all destined to die," and that if she could accept that no one is guaranteed a just life (that is, one in which sons always outlive their mothers), she could finally end her mourning and live the rest of her life in peace.
Seneca contrasted two models of maternal grieving: that of Octavia Minor, sister of Augustus, who, on losing her only son Marcellus in his twenties, "set no bounds to her tears and moans"; with that of Livia, wife of Augustus, who on losing her son Drusus "as soon as she had placed him in the tomb, along with her son she laid away her sorrow, and grieved no more than was respectful to Caesar or fair Tiberius, seeing that they were alive."