Motherless daughters

After my mom died, a friend gave me a book called Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. It was several years — literally — before I was ready to read it. Not because I didn’t have time and not because my stack of books to read was long, but because the grief was still too raw. Too raw to read a book that is meant to help ease that grief. That’s pretty bad.

It’s true that time heals, though, and after a few years I was ready to delve into Edelman’s wisdom. While parts of the book were hard to read because they brought back a flood of memories and transported me back to the time of losing my mom, other parts reminded me that many other women were walking the same road, missing their moms every single day.

The single best thing I learned from losing my sweet mama is that no one can dictate another person’s grief. People grieve as differently as they live, and no one has the right to say “This is how it should be done.” There are no “shoulds” in the process of grieving, and if anyone suggests otherwise, walk the other way. You have my permission to be flat-out rude if need be.

I’m tickled and honored to again be a guest blogger on one of my all-time favorite blogs, Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer. I’ve never met Marie, the bloggess, in person, but don’t have to be in her presence to know that I like her, that she’s good people, as they say in my neck of the woods. Marie’s blog was one of the first BC blogs I found after being diagnosed and joining the pink ribbon club, and through her I’ve “met” many other BC bloggers whose words and experiences enrich my life on a regular basis.

I wrote this post for Marie a while back, at the behest of another BC blogger friend, Lauren, who had the amazing idea of having BC bloggers “stand in the gap” for Marie while she dealt with her beloved mother’s failing health. Blog posts came from far and wide, and while Marie no doubt felt loved and relieved, those of us in the gap felt honored and happy to help. It wasn’t until I embarked on this cancer “journey” that I truly understood how it feels to help someone in need. Sure, I’ve minded my friends’ kids while they ran errands, and I’ve delivered home-cooked meals to friends who’d had surgery or brought home new babies. But being on the receiving end of so much love, so many great meals, and such endless kindness was a whole ‘nother ball game.

Now that I’m on the other side of the cancer experience (knock wood), I’m even more motivated to lend a hand to those in need. Being featured on Marie’s wonderful blog is a thrill, but knowing I’ve lightened her load a bit is even better. And, after being home with sick kids for days on end with no end in sight, it made my day.

Cheers to Marie and Lauren and the other Nancy and every other woman out there navigating the world without her mom.

If you’re hankering for more, click here for my first guest post on JBBC, or here for my second one.

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11 Comments on “Motherless daughters”

  1. Eddie says:

    Thanks for the quality words on grief. I always love Wilford’s line about liking two kinds of pie. The sippy cup on the table picture of you and Barb setting up the food at the birthday party kills me. They have long since outgrown those, haven’t they? Keep writing, your words make the world a little brighter place.

  2. Christy says:

    I can’t begin to feel your pain. But, I pray for peace and comfort for you often….

  3. hjelmstd says:

    I, too, read Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters after my mother died and it was a great help. I have shared it with others who lost their mothers at an earlier age than I did. I was incredibly lucky to have my mother until I was 65.

    And I know about waiting for the rawness to diminish. I wrote poems and journal entries during the eleven weeks that my mother was in hospice at home. But it took me seven years to finish and publish The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret. My website is: http://www.mourningmymother.com.

  4. David Benbow says:

    Even if the flood of memories is painful, the pain will fade, but the memories are yours to keep. Barbara was good people and I’m glad you can start grieving.

  5. As another daughter who lost her mother to cancer, I like how you say that no one can dictate a person’s grief. The worst thing is to judge someone. Each of us mourns in a very personal way. I felt guilty for not shedding tears when my Mom died, but those tears were shed while she was still living and ridden with lung cancer. I no longer have that guilt haunting me. It’s so healing to know I am not alone in my thoughts of what it’s like to be a motherless daughter. I loved reading both of your posts. They speak volumes on the value of mothers. Thanks for your reassuring words.

  6. My mom’s still with me, but she’s 90 and seemingly healthy except for having dementia. I do know I’m not ready to lose my only remaining family. Losing my husband, James, last year has been the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with, worse than breast cancer.

    I imagine Marie’s grief is still palpable. Like you, I love her, and am heartsick at the turn of events with her sweet mother.

    Love to you and Marie,
    Brenda

  7. I am so incredibly moved by your wonderful guest post for me Nancy and how it resonates with so many of us motherless daughters. Did you see that Hope Edelman discovered your post and left a lovely comment for you?

  8. Nancy,
    After my mom died, I bought the book for myself. I really liked it too. Your guest post on Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer was simply amazing. I love how it brought so many of us together. Losing your mother is a life’s passage. I understand that, but it’s a tough one to navigate and it really does help knowing others understand. Thank you for being part of my other “sisterhood,” though I wish you didn’t have to be. Thank for writing.

  9. Oh, and thank you for the link. I didn’t realize the “other Nancy” was me til I clicked on it!! I’m a bit slow it seems. duh!! Thank you so much. And BTW, I love the photo too!

  10. […] I wish I had). Perhaps it spoke to me because of the idea of having to mother myself. Being a motherless daughter, I don’t often think about mothering myself, and yet I do. Making myself go to bed when […]


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