Motherless Daughters Support Currently Online & Individual Support

Motherless Daughters Support and Online Therapy Group

For Women Who Have Lost Their Mothers Through Death, Illness, Separation, or Estrangement in Childhood, Adolescence, or Adulthood

With death, "A Profoundly Life-Altering Passage...."
( Hope Edelman , "Motherless Daughters, The Legacy of Loss," 1994, 2014)

With death in childhood , "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)

With death as an adult we can feel like we've lost our best friend or have unresolved issues and regrets.

With disenfranchised grief through not having a "good enough", absent, or abusive mother, we may have deeply painful feelings of loss that others don't understand .

In our groups we've embraced mother loss in varying ways and with acceptance of individual feelings and perceptions in all life stages. We all learn from and support one another in a safe, small group of participants of up to 10 in our secure online format.

Individual, Couple, and Group Support, Suited to Your Needs

  Every Other Wednesday, 4:00 - 5:30 PM via Secure Zoom
Eight Session Minimum Commitment

*See More Information Below

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 experience recurrent and deep feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, 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 motherhood.

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 with intense feelings of anxiety. Living past the age at which one's mother died has been reported by women to seem like moving into "uncharted territory" and sometimes a relief in being able to be oneself .

Motherless Daughters also disclose their appreciation of life and its momentary treasures, unlike others their age who may not have experienced a major loss or on-going trauma.

I've elaborated on Kubler-Ross' model of the stages of loss and grief that does not follow a predictable pattern or progression:
  • 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?!" "Why didn't she take better care of herself!"
  • Depression (sadness, crying, difficulty getting out of bed, loss of enjoyment in usually pleasurable 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, taking care of oneself, finding post-loss and post-trauma growth.
  • Anxiety "What will happen next... Who am I now?" (Not in Kubler-Ross's model and experienced by women).

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 or present living mother
  • To find if possible an enduring connection with the deceased or estranged mother 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. Indications of healing are that painful feelings become less frequent and less intense and when deep feelings do emerge, one learns how to navigate through them. 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, allowing oneself to cry, awareness of current and past situations, and learning how to navigate through deep feelings and responses. The hardest times do pass.

Our major challenges can be transformative with post-trauma and post-loss growth, opening a way for finding new meaning in life and knowing ourselves. 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?

What Do I Offer Motherless Daughters?

In 1992, I began working with women who had experienced early parent loss as I did, at age 15, when my mother died. Since then I've worked with many women individually and in safe, successful groups I have developed and facilitated beginning in 1997 following the successful publication of New York Times bestseller, "Motherless Daughters, The Legacy of Loss,"(1994; 2014) by Hope Edelman, a journalist whose mother died when she was 17. I was quite impressed with Hope's warmth, knowledge and insights when I heard her in an interview many years ago.

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. Subsequent to publication, 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 Marin County and now on secure Zoom..

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.  I was honored to attend and be part of a panel with motherless daughter Cheryl Strayed, author of "Wild" and others at the first Motherless Daughters Conference in Marina Del Rey, California, 2014, celebrating the 25th anniversary edition of "Motherless Daughters, hosted by Hope Edelman, and Irene Rubaum-Keller.

In working with motherless daughters, I bring over 30 years of professional experience and training along with personal experience 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 establish a trusting relationship with me due to recognition that I'm "one of us", and that I empathize and understand. A long group work, I offer individual sessions, in office, internet, or by phone. Women can choose to attend group or individual sessions, or both, based on individual need.

Facilitating the Motherless Daughters Groups is a deeply enriching, collaborative experience. I appreciate the wisdom, compassion, resilience, vulnerabilities, and strengths I observe in motherless daughters. I learn so much from them!
Our discussion and exploration in group will relate to what women want to address and what is relevant to their lives. We will augment our exploration with psychoeducational resources based on our discussions. Your individual and shared wisdom and experience creates the power of the group-as-a-whole. This is an educational/supportive/exploratory group with focuses that include the following:

  • Coping with trauma, loss, and stress, including Covid-19
  • Ambiguous loss and disenfranchised grief
  • Mother loss in childhood, adolescence or adulthood -- what is the impact?
  • Relationships, roles, and patterns, current and past
  • Abandonment fears
  • Fathers
  • Family of origin issues
  • Motherless mothers
  • Healthy and effective skills such as boundaries, communication, personal rights
  • Acknowledging individual challenges, successes, personal goals
  • Self-care
  • Changes in self-identity -- Who am I now? Experiencing stages of life
  • Longing for a mother's support especially in times of crisis -- where do I get the support?
  • PTSD symptoms, activation, tools for grounding and being present
  • What have motherless daughters found helpful for recovery?
  • Self-esteem and confidence

On the day prior to the Motherless Daughters Group online, I often send out PowerPoints of resources women address.  This may include traits of a "good enough" mother, different types of mother loss and how it affects one, parentified child, motherless mothers, and any of the issues listed above.

I request payment of $70 for one session prior to the session or $140 for two sessions per month.  We will use secure Zoom so we can see and hear each other in the safety and comfort of our homes. You will need to download the Zoom app one time only and you will need a camera and speakers on your device or you can use your IPhone. I send the link on the day of our group session

You may be interested in my published article, "When Mom Dies, More Than a Piece of Us Dies Too" on menu to your left.

If you have questions about the group or are interested in an individual consultation, please email me at [email protected] and provide a brief statement of your loss

Call 415-785-3513 or email: [email protected] if interested or with questions.

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