Welcome, Motherless Daughters
(Hope Edelman, "Motherless Daughters, The Legacy of Loss," 1994, 2014)
"For a child, the death of a parent shatters assumptions even more basic than the order of how a life should proceed. It shatters core beliefs about the world itself. A child believes in a safe and secure world, a world in which events are predictable and orderly, a world that can be understood. When death is sudden and unexpected, the world and everything in it seem less safe and more precarious. If a loved mother or father can disappear overnight, then who knows what other disasters lie ahead."
(Maxine Harris, "The Loss That Is Forever, The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father," 1995)
Individual, Couple, and Group Support, Suited to Your Needs
What are Common Experiences of Motherless Daughters?
Women who have lost their mothers through death, illness, separation, or estrangement in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood often come into therapy describing a sense that an essential part of themselves is missing, that they feel an emptiness inside, a longing for a nurturing mom, and a desire to understand how to navigate through life as a motherless daughter. A motherless daughter may have experienced recurrent and deep feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation, without others who understand or know what to say about the profound loss . When a daughter is raised by a mother who is still living but who was never a "good enough" parent, she may share feelings common to motherless daughters who have lost their mothers through death, finding insufficient support from others who may be uncomfortable with hearing about the shadow sides of mother. In early mother loss, a woman may feel that she's missed the tools to know how to function in the world, how to develop and maintain healthy relationships, or to know what being a woman is all about. A woman who loses her mother in adulthood can feel devastated in losing her "best friend". As with other losses and traumas, motherless daughters may have difficulty with intimacy and trust and long for an idealized relationship with someone who is nurturing and always available, finding herself disappointed when these expectations aren't met. Motherless daughters may strive to become "super-achievers" with an "I can do it all myself!" motto, even with the discomfort and limitations this brings. Or, motherless daughters may comply with others, putting their needs last, distrusting and disconnecting with themselves, while having a great sensitivity for rejection.
Many women who have lost their mothers also report that a part of themselves feels the age they were when their mothers died, or a part of them seems developmentally "stuck." . Many find that they have unconsciously carried an inaccurate belief of not surviving beyond the age of their mothers when she died, or they may live in a state of fear about the worst that could happen. Living past the age at which one's mother died has been reported by women to seem like moving into "uncharted territory" .
Motherless Daughters also disclose their appreciation of life and its momentary treasures, unlike others their age who may not have experienced a major loss.
- Shock and Disbelief (feeling in a "fog"; on "automatic"; numb)
- Anger (at the loss; the illness and the toll it took on mother and daughter; "Why don't I have a 'normal' life?!" "Why me?!" "Why did this happen to my mother?!");
- Depression (sadness, crying, difficulty getting out of bed, loss of enjoyment in usually pleasureable activities, changes in eating or sleeping);
- Denial ("I'm OK"..."I'll avoid thinking about mom and what happened".."I won't connect with the pain I feel"..."I'll just stay busy";
- Bargaining ("What could I have done differently that could have resulted in my mother still living or providing adequate mothering?"..."If only I had....");
- Acceptance in facing the realities and understanding the consequences of mother loss, integrating it into one's life.
Another conception of grief and four basic tasks of grieving are articulated by William Worden (2009) which I've adapted from his book, "Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy." These are as follows:
- To accept the reality of the loss
- To process the pain of grief (anger, sadness, fear, loneliness, etc.)
- To adjust to the world without the deceased
- To find an enduring connection with the deceased in the midst of embarking upon a new life.
Some situations, person, place, time, or activity can trigger painful feelings from the past regarding the loss of a woman's mother, mother substitute, father, on-going loss and trauma. A mark of healing is that painful feelings become less frequent and less intense. In my understanding, the process of healing and recovery involves facing the reality of one's loss, accepting and observing emerging feelings and associations that come and go, sometimes with great intensity, and leraning how to navigate through deep feelings and responses. Our major challenges can be transformative, opening a way for finding new meaning in life. Motherless daughters often find they gain a deepened appreciation for the basic experiences of life, death, and growth...Often, I've been told, the part of themselves that feels empty, begins to fill with warmth.
How Did I Get Started In This Field?
The term "motherless daughters" and the common consequences of mother loss detailed in "Motherless Daughters" helped me put together missing pieces of my and other women's common and unique responses to loss and trauma. Following the widely successful reception of her book, Hope led an organization in New York City to help hundreds of women understand and navigate through their experiences. In coordination with Hope's NYC organization, I began facilitating time-limited, structured support groups from lists of women who wanted to participate in them, locally. From these groups I developed and facilitated on-going, supportive/exploratory Groups for Motherless Daughters in Mill Valley and currently, San Anselmo, CA, Marin County.
I am also the founder of MOTHERLESS DAUGHTERS OF MARIN.
Many motherless daughters comment that the group for motherless daughters becomes a primary support in their lives, more than a grief group, in which they can address issues they are facing, current and past. Some have called the group "life-changing". Women often comment about their perception of the group-as-a-whole as a nurturing mother presence in some ways, that helps fill up the longing for a "good enough" mother, and provides a safe place to learn about self , gain acknowledgement and validation, and reach individual goals. Women honestly discuss their experiences with others who understand...they follow and care about each other's lives, challenges and successes. The warm, generous mutual support women provide to each other is touching to observe. These safe Motherless Daughters Support Groups continue to be an important part of of my life and practice. I am grateful to Hope Edelman for her major contributions in this field and honored that she acknowledged me in her books, "Motherless Mothers, How Losing A Mother Shapes the Parent You Become," (2007) and "Motherless Daughters, The legacy of Loss" (2014) , the expanded 20th anniversary edition. In working with motherlss daughters, I bring 20+ years of professional experience and training along with personal expereience as a motherless daughter. My mother's death when I was 15 years of age was a pivotal event in my life. I've observed that generally motherless daughters easily establish a trusting relationship with me due to recognition that I'm "one of us", and that I empathize and understand from personal and professional experience. Along with group, I offer individual sessions, in office or by phone. Women can choose to attend group or individual sessions, or both, based on individual need.
I've written a few articles for motherless daughters, one of which is "When Mom Dies, More Than a Piece of Us Dies, Too" published in the Marin Independent Journal, Mother's Day, 1997. You can find it on my website devoted solely to Motherless Daughters.
I was grateful to attend and be part of a panel with motherless daughter Cheryl Strayed, author of "Wild" and others at the first Motherless Daughters Conference, May 10th, 2014, in Marina Del Rey, California, hosted by Hope Edelman, and Irene Rubaum-Keller. A more recent L.A. Times article about Motherless Daughters is here: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-banks-motherless-daughters-20140503-column.html#axzz30sxgt400 .
If you would like to have support with other motherless daughters, consider participating in a safe and successful Motherless Daughters Support Group. Or, you can work with me individually in office or by phone.
Participants in the psychodynamic, exploratory support groups I've developed and facilitated since 1997 are women who have lost their mothers through death, illness, separation, or estrangement in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. Women honestly address relevant issues in their lives, current and past, gain acknowledgement, deepen self-empowerment, with opportunities for healing and change. In group, women make connections between past and current patterns and beliefs, share successful life strategies; and integrate mother loss into their current lives. The safe group environment is one in which women find a safe place to grieve, learn they are not alone in their struggles, and understand that their responses to loss and trauma are "normal." Issues women commonly address include: relationship challenges; family of origin experience; inaccurate, self-limiting beliefs and their disconfirmation; surviving mother's illness; connecting with self and mothering self; dads; step-mothers; motherless mothers; unresolved longings; self-identity and meaning of life issues; personal goals; successes; helpful coping strategies.
Facilitating the Motherless Daughters Groups is a deeply enriching, collaborative experience. I deely appreciate the wisdom, compassion, vulnerabilities and strengths I observe in us motherless daughters.
Call 415-785-3513 or email: email@example.com if interested or with questions.