May is a time of celebrating mothers, and for many of us who have lost our moms, it can bring our grief bubbling to the surface. My aging mother is still alive, but in poor health. She’s had many trips to the hospital over the past couple of years and several times we weren’t sure if she would recover. Stepping into the care-taker role for our parents is often difficult and can cause us to grieve. Although we know our parents will most likely die before us, having to face the reality, and prepare for it, is not easy.
As a therapist, I’ve had many clients come in to receive help when their mothers passed. One client came for therapy because she had so much trouble managing her grief when her mother died unexpectedly. The rest of the foundation of her life, her marriage and her professional life, started to crumble as she struggled with her grief. For some of us who are grieving our mothers, we think if we let go of the grief, we are letting go of the person we loved.
— Kate Spencer
Kate Spencer, a 27–year old mom wrote How I Finally Let Go of Grief for my Dead Mom. In the article Kate writes, “losing my grief was almost as hard as losing her”. I love how she comes to the understanding that her mom still lives on in her—love does not die.
Terri Ewton writes a beautiful, magical tribute to her mom in this blog My Mother’s Rhythm.
Mothers and Sons
So much is written about mothers and daughters and grief, I wanted to explore a son’s grief. Dave Rosenberg’s deep exploration eighteen months after his mother passing made my heart ache in this article from The Guardian – We don’t ‘Lose’ our mothers – the reality is more violent than that. He reminds us “the magnitude and bottomlessness of the pain you feel is a testament to the love you shared
I discovered this gorgeous book of famous men writing about losing their mothers compiled by a Berkeley professor – Our Mother’s Spirits – Great Writers on the Death of Mothers and the Grief of Men.
We have not “lost” our mothers. We say that to be polite, but in truth, we have become un-mothered. It feels violent. It feels raw and fundamental, a pain that reaches all the way down to your ligaments and bones”.
— Dave Rosenberg
How Does Grief Change Over Time?
I love the the way the BBC answers this simple question,
How Does Grief Change over Time?
Grieving The Mothers We Deserved
Grief over our mothers isn’t just about our mothers’ dying. It’s a complex relationship that spans our whole lives, and many of us grieve the mothers we didn’t have. In this beautiful article in Psychology Today – Daughters of Unloving Mothers: Mourning the Mom you Deserved, we learn how essential it is to grieve the mother you didn’t have to recover from childhood trauma.
Many people who grieve for a mother they never had often find someone who becomes a mother figure for them. A relative, a teacher, a friend’s mother, a therapist – all of these other “mothers” deserve recognition and celebration. I am especially close to my aunt, who has been been like an older sister to me since I was born. I always honor her on Mother’s day for the special role she’s had in my life.
My editor Laura Lentz tells a story about her complex relationship with her mother, Grieving my Living Mother. An unexpected healing occurs when her mother finally meets her granddaughter.
Photographer Beatriz Ruibal turned her grief for her mother into pictures by photographing her mother’s personal belongings. Read about this beautiful image-rich study of a woman mourning her mother.
New Books I’m Reading about Mothers
Edwidge Danticat’s gorgeous small book, The Art of Death, Writing the Final Story, is a prose-like journey exploring all facets of death beginning with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and ends with a dream she has on the one year anniversary of her mother’s death.
Alison Bechdel’s new graphic novel, Are You My Mother? A Comic Dramais a brilliant exploration of a mother-daughter relationship, giving us all insights to the complexity of our own memories. Alison’s mother died shortly after the book was published.
I leave you with this quote by author Steve Massover:
“She remains with me in her recipes that I continue to prepare for my family, friends, and lovers, and in particular dishes of mine that I taste remembering how she loved them. I watch the world with her eyes. She lives in my deepest and least articulate places, the parts of me that lie many fathoms beneath words, in the bedrock of my self. That is her, my mother, there in the bedrock on which I stand.”
— Steve Massover
is now available on Amazon!
I’m excited to announce early reviews for my book, You Are Not Alone are making me blush, but they are also reminding me how much this book is needed in the world! It’s vulnerable having my personal story of grief out for everyone to read but when I know I’m helping someone, it makes it worthwhile! Rachel Koontz from Alive in the Fire Yoga blog included You Are Not Alone in a roundup of Health and Wellness Books. The editor noted:
“The book is in itself like a heavy sigh of relief, just being able to read about and think about death without it being taboo or too difficult or uncomfortable to talk about. I’ll definitely keep it on my bookshelf, both for myself and as a precious gift to share with friends and family at the times when they need it most.”
— Rachel Koontz, Alive in the Fire Yoga
Read Rachel’s full book review of “You are Not Alone”
“It’s rare – in fact, this might have been the first time – that I tell people to buy a book before I’ve even finished reading it. But, halfway through, I couldn’t wait any longer. I’m actually at a loss on how best to describe this book, it’s that powerful! All I can really say is if you are grieving, know someone who is grieving, want to prepare yourself for the experience to come, or are simply interested in a compelling story of loss, survival and renewed living, get this book today.”
— Eleanor Biddulph | Being Fully Present
Read Eleanor’s full book review of “You are Not Alone”
Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC, is an author and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, where she specializes in trauma, grief and loss. Her award-winning book, You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing, and Hope combines her personal story of devastating loss with practical insights and simple suggestions for healing. Join her Facebook community, Grief to Gratitude, and follow her on Instagram.