Grief and loss is something we will all go though as daughters, whether your mother leaves you through choice, personal circumstance or death. No matter how good or bad your relationship was with your mother, it will still have an impact on you when your mother is no longer there.
As well as grieving for the relationship you had or hoped for, you may also mourn for the loss of your personal history and positive memories that go with your mother. However small and insignificant those pockets of treasured moments may be, I am hopeful you can find a significant memory to treasure - or at least one positive strength, skill or attribute you have gained as a result of your relationship with your mother.
Without her mother, a daughter mourns not only what is lost, but also what she knows will never be.
Losing a parent through death, is like losing a part of yourself. You have lost the person who gave you life and you no longer have access to the person who had direct knowledge of your conception, birth and childhood. The things you may have wanted to know about yourself from your mother, will no longer be available to you. It is not until a mother dies that we realise there are so many unanswered questions. It is my hope that after reading Mothers and Daughters, my first book you are able to ask your mother questions, accept your differences, bridge the gap with your mother and re-build your relationship to one which is more meaningful for both of you.
Although your identity may change, as your relationship with your mother comes to a final end, if you are able to you can also create new opportunities and new meanings for your future. You can reject the judgements made about you and the limiting beliefs placed upon you and start your life afresh and on your terms. You are set both free. You do not need to continue running old programmes and behaviours along your future time line; you have the ability to make a different life for yourself and for the lives of the daughters who come after you.
For some daughters there may be a sense of relief when a mother passes away. For others, the loss may feel vast, leaving a gaping hole which seems impossible to fill. Your grief will be unique to you and my advice is to let it out freely.
Although as children, many of us would have been told not to cry when we are hurting, delaying our grief will only come back tenfold if it remains.
Kate’s Words of Wisdom
‘‘When my mother died I was shocked at the emotions I felt in relation to her dying. One minute I felt sad, the next minute angry and everything else in between. All I can say is thank goodness for EFT; it’s a wonder I haven’t given myself a bruise I’ve been tapping so much.’’
If you are separated from someone and suffering from grief and loss, you may imagine you can see the person or hear their voice. You may experience disturbed sleep patterns, changeable appetite, disbelief, shock, numbness and the emotions of anger, guilt and, sadness. You may find it almost impossible to stop thinking about the person in question. A period of depression may be part of your grieving. You do need to give yourself time to go through the natural process of grieving, when your mother dies or your relationship with her ends. Welcoming the full range of emotions which will surface will serve you well.
Strategies to overcome your grief and loss are:
· Expressing your emotions (sadness, anger, guilt, helplessness, anxiety) using EFT and the other processes shared throughout Chapters Five and Six of Mothers and Daughters
· Working towards accepting your loss and talking about it
· Living without the deceased or person you are estranged from and making decisions alone
Grief and loss are far broader than physical death alone. Moving on from what is dead to us emotionally or what we hoped for, is the starting point on the journey towards recovery. Death might be the beginning of the separation process, if we as daughters, have remained attached to our mothers - or her to us, until this time.
Lisa Case Study
Lisa came to me for support to work through grief, loss and anger
Lisa acknowledged the ache weighing her down is the guilt of not wanting to grieve her mother, after all she stated ‘why should she, her mother didn’t deserve it.’ Too many times her mother had abandoned her and run off with men, leaving her to fend for herself and her brother as a teenager. How she’d cried every time her mother left and came back again when it suited her, only to disappear again with a new ‘uncle’ or to find a new man moving in who would only ignore her and her brother.
After working through her feelings, Lisa realised she needed to let go of her anger towards her mother, before any true grieving could begin. We have begun our work and already Lisa is making progress in understanding that her mother had unfulfilled needs from her own childhood when her mother (Lisa’s grandmother) behaved in exactly the same way, seeking love by the wrong means. She recognised her mother sought love in the arms of others, trying to escape her pain from her own loveless childhood. Lisa’s mother had failed to notice she had the love of her children all along and did not recognise it.
Lisa is now able to see how her own unhealthy beliefs about finding love were just compounding the problem, for herself, her mother and grandmother. Since the early days of working together, Lisa is making many changes in her personal life. She is now planning to take a psychology and counselling degree and specifically wants to work as a counsellor with children and teenagers who have experienced family isolation, confusion and heartache. This is a classic example of someone using their past to work for them, not against them.
Every journey to healing, no matter how hard, will always be worth it. Grieving for the idealised mother, as well as mourning the loss of our mother in the physical sense, is exactly what we need to do in order to set ourselves free from the past.
The harsh reality of life is that our mothers get sick, suffer their own losses, disappointments and aren’t necessarily happy with the role of domestic goddess, mother, chief cook and bottle washer and doing all the wife and mother duties. Many mothers have become exhausted caring for their own mothers, siblings, husbands and children.
Having the confidence to be a mother doesn’t always come naturally. Your mother may be grieving her own losses which she may never discuss with anyone which leads her to internalise her emotions.
· What significant losses did your mother experience in her life?
· What might your mother still be grieving for?
· How does your mother express her grief? (does she talk about it, hide from it, self-medicate, express herself through anger and rage, develop narcissistic behaviours etc)
My mother did not have an easy life. I have found grieving for her losses, opened up a space of understanding, empathy and love within me. Your story may be completely different to mine, though I wonder if you were able to empathise with your mother’s losses what this may in turn, release in yourself. How you deal with grief and loss will depend on what you have already learnt through our own experiences. Culturally there will also be different ways to grieve through various services, prayer, ritual and honouring the deceased.
Though far more can be written on the subject of grief and loss and the full range of human emotion this blog is a short overview of some of the emotions experienced by daughters in relation to their mothers.
Jannine’s Words of Wisdom
‘‘It took me years to heal the wounds my mother inflicted on me. Parents are not always good for you. I love to see people being released from their own hell, to be able to take off the shackles and live a free life.’’
What is it you need to grieve?
· Not knowing your birth mother?
· Not having secure attachments to any mother figure?
· Your mother dying in childbirth or when you were a child?
· Mourning the loss of your mother’s absence for whatever reason?
· Grieving the loss of a strong supportive parent and stable family life?
· Coming to terms with not having the mother you hoped for?
· Mourning the loss of the relationship you hoped for?
· Childhood trauma?
· Grieving the loss of your childhood if you were an emotional or physical carer?
· Moving on from the break-up of your family as a unit?
· Grieving the loss of contact with family, friends and neighbours?
· Overcoming the loss of your family home and environment or country of origin?
· Letting go of the “ideal” relationship you would have liked with your mother?
· Grieving the loss of your mother through illness or death?
· Mourning the loss of not only your mother, but also your personal history and connection to the past?
Some of the case studies and questionnaires submitted and used in Mothers and Daughters reveal siblings who were stillborn, aborted, disabled, ill or who died in childhood. If this was part of your mother’s reality too, it would certainly have had an impact on your mother. Hardship and circumstances beyond her control, may go some way in explaining why your mother was not able to be the mother you would have preferred.
It will be helpful for you and your mother to work through the following questions together (or independently) to gain further insights into her life and your relationship.
What might your mother still be grieving for?
What losses has she experienced?
How often have you talked about your personal disasters and how your mother isn’t able to be there to support you?
What might your losses bring up for her, or remind her of?
Thinking about her losses, if she has not grieved them fully, she may be triggered by your losses, trapped inside her own pain, not being able to come to your aid because of her own memoires surfacing. This may be something you want to help her with or indeed she might also like to read this book in relation to her own mother and past experiences.
Emma’s Words of Wisdom
‘‘One of my greatest losses was being told ‘no more pets’ It might sound silly, but to me this was like being cut off from the only source of love I knew. As a kid I’d loved all kinds of furry friends - in particular, cats, mice, gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs. We had to get rid of the guinea pigs because their squeaking irritated my mum. The mice, hamsters and gerbils I had, never seemed to have a huge life span and when my beloved friends died, I would cry my eyes out. My mum told me to stop snivelling and grow up. She banned me from having any more pets, because I used to get so upset when they died. I hated her for preventing me from having something to love and care for and to have the love, warmth and affection a pet gives you unconditionally.’’
Loss comes to us in many ways. Grieving the tangible things we miss and also the intangible things we hoped for. If you would like some help and support in working through your experiences of grief and loss please do make contact to discuss support options.
Grief is a normal and natural response to loss. It is originally an unlearned feeling process. Keeping grief inside increases your pain - Anne Grant