In 1994 Hope Edelman, who lost her mother when she was 17, wrote the book Motherless Daughters. This book has sold over 500,000 copies. Unique to self help books about the psychology and process of grief and loss, this book became a movement, an organization and a sacred space for all daughters grieving their moms. Any age daughter, any age loss is welcome to read the book and its follow up Motherless Mothers, and join a local chapter. Each year, members of the group no one wants to join, Motherless Daughters, come together in their communities the day before Mother’s Day to honor their mothers and their loss.
When my mother died, July 13, 2007, concluding a three and a half year battle with leukemia, I grieved a lot. During her illness and after she died, I cried on all of my friends’ shoulders, actually on anyone who had a shoulder, for months, turning to years, the tears flowed, I longed for comfort that no living person could provide. I was lost and had no tools to help myself recover. Even though my community and friends and family were there to support me, I felt alone, isolated in my grief. I could not imagine ever feeling good again, how could I? I felt like so much of my heart was missing. My siblings and my father and those closest to my mom, of course, shared my loss, but all of us were so completely shattered by the loss of not just our mother but the glue of our lives, we were barely able to give each other much more than an “it sucks”. Looking back on it now, I realize that my isolation was partially self imposed. As a sensitive empath, I struggled to honor others’ grief. I perceived myself as being too limited to sooth and comfort others because of my own overwhelm, and this filled me with shame. I hated not being able to care for others who were suffering. Had I known about Motherless Daughters, I’m not sure I would have had the strength to join my grief with my peers, my true peers, my sisters in mother loss.
May 11, 2019, I was invited to speak to a group of motherless daughters in Detroit, Michigan at their annual brunch. I stood in front of the group of 50 women, telling the story of how I recovered and grew. How I survived the loss of my mother, the end of my 20 year marriage (2013), estrangement from some of my most foundational relationships (2013 – present), the loss of one of my closest childhood friends (2015) and my closest aunt (2017), and the suicide of my second husband (2016). I shared my challenges, and my triumphs, and gave the audience a view inside my now hefty and powerful survival kit. I recounted how I never thought I could feel good again after my mother died, after my husband died, but that I refused to live in sorrow, guilt and darkness. This is not an acceptable life to me, so I sought out every form of help I could find until I began to see, with my energy turned toward growth and love and compassion, that I could have a joyful life no matter what I have experienced. One of my greatest tools is remembering my mother’s love. Even though she is physically gone, she is truly with me and loving me, and this is sometimes the only thing that gets me through the dark times when they creep up. I shared this with the group. We cried together, we sisters in loss, but we also smiled through the tears, laughed a bit and hugged a lot.
One of the women in the audience asked me how to recover from the guilt that comes with feeling like you are doing less than your best as a mother while you are suffering from grief. “I am afraid I am ruining their childhood,” she said tearfully. My heart melted for her. My children were 4, 8 and 11 when my mother died, when I lost my second husband his three and my three ranged in age from 13 to 20. I continually struggled with feelings of failing them because, drowning in grief and trauma, I could not even take care of myself. I remembered my mother grieving her mother loss when I was 6. Even though I did not understand fully that Grama wasn’t coming back, I do remember I felt my mother’s pain as well as my own, but I also had her love.
I answered the audience member in the best way I knew how, the way I get through each day, “you love.” “There is no such thing as perfect,” I said, “nor is there the expectation of perfection.” “You love your children, and that is the most important and best you can do. You are showing them how to grieve, a lesson you wouldn’t choose for them, but a valuable one. And love yourself, if you show your children that you are also deserving of love, compassion and kindness, they will learn another very important lesson. Love you, love them.”
There were 35 Motherless Daughters annual brunches this year in the United States and England and Canada, all women, coming together in sacred grief, to support each other, the day before Mother’s Day. There is a ripple effect of healing from these brave strong women, that supports all who mourn, all who suffer, all who have lost.
I know my mother is proud of my contribution to this incredible community of brave women who came together in loss, compassion and support.
#overcome #growthroughloss #happymothersday#motherlessdaughters #hopeedelman #loveheals #growthroughit