Mother Grief

I had an amazing experience last weekend. I participated in a Gestalt Awareness Practice intensive workshop that was truly beneficial on so many levels – with several gifts and nuggets I’m still exploring. There’s one piece that I want to share with other mothers.

I was honored to witness a 60-year-old mother – I’ll name her Susan – delve into a sense of loneliness she was beginning to feel. As she went deeper, she came to the realization that she really missed her children – deeply. Of course her children weren’t really gone, they had just gone on to live their own lives. Mission accomplished, and she did it well. Susan was proud of who they had become and that all three children were happy.

But as Susan went deeper into her feelings, she got in touch with an immense grief. The babies that for so many years had been intensely connected with her body and mind (and all that comes with that), were actually really gone. She will never get that back. Gone forever. That pure sweet baby smell, the cuddles, the holding, the laughter, the sleepless nights, the snot, the throw-up, the messes, and all the tears.

The river of tears.

I get it. I really understand. As she cried, I cried too. I had not realized this unspoken and unresolved grief that was inside of me, too. And for me, touching in on this grief brought a wave of even more emotion. It brought up the pain about the family life I never had – both as a child and as a mother. The positive family experience I did not get as a child. And then raising a child completely by myself – this was definitely a mixed bag of emotions. I realized that the exhaustion of single parenting and the happiness about who my daughter has become (as her independent 20-year-old amazing self) had covered up the many layers of unexpressed mother grief.

Most who are reading this are still in that sweet baby or young child stage. And I know there are times that you feel it’s way too much. There’s a whole host of emotions that come with mothering and it can be difficult sometimes to sort them out. There are many profound moments of joy and happiness that mothering brings. And there are also transitions, unmet expectations, and circumstances that need to be grieved.

Some of you are dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Many have kids with multiple levels of chronic illness, and you wonder how you’ll ever get resolution. Some are dealing with severe behavioral or neurological problems. Many have financial worries, marriage problems, exhausting, draining jobs, or a number of other circumstances that can make parenting a lot more difficult.

And what about all the expectations we put on ourselves that are impossible to live up to? I know that one pretty well! I also want to acknowledge the fears and worries that all mothers deal with on a regular basis, that can be threatening and unsettling.

Take time to acknowledge your transitions in mothering. All the different stages of going from pregnancy through leaving the nest and even beyond. There are lots of them and they’re all important. Some are to be grieved and some are to be celebrated. Or perhaps a little of both?

Give yourself some love and nurturing. And honor yourself for showing up the way you do. You are undertaking the most important and challenging job that ever was. Take some deep breaths and give yourself a huge break. No one does this perfectly. You will get through it – and then you will miss it – deeply. Take some time to feel the grief. And focus on the good stuff as well. There is certainly mountains of that!

What are you dealing with? Are you allowing yourself to grieve? Please share in the comments below and let’s support each other!