It is devastating to lose your mom.
Something I had thought about when I was much younger, in my teens and twenties – how I would manage without my mom – how I didn’t want to manage. How sad I would be. Never gave it a thought about what mom would miss. It was always about what I would miss without her in my life. After a moment of these thoughts, I always opted for their death. Why would I think about such a thing? It was a thought that needed no life.
When my grandfather died I was 33. I remember sitting in the second pew at his funeral service, my aunt (she was 44) in the front row, she turned around looked straight at me and said, “I never knew it would be like this. I always thought, as you got older, you would be better prepared for when your parent passed away. But it’s not true. You are never quite ready.” Her words stayed with me. I made a mental note to put what she said with my, “it was a thought that needed no life.”
My mom passed away when I was 43, she was only 64. Lung cancer. Quit smoking 12 years before she passed away. We had time, she found out 21 months before she died. We were all prepared. But like my aunt said, “You are never quite ready” – her words had life.
It got me to thinking about all the women who lost their moms when they really couldn’t comprehend, nor had the skills to digest and accept the loss of their beloved mothers. These women, from birth to age 30 have had extraordinary lives.
Each of these women deserves their own chapter in a book of “Motherless Daughters,” as each of their stories are different, yet they have several common threads. I would like to highlight each one, using only their first names and the age they were when their mothers passed away. But I am not writing a book, I am writing an article so I must condense.
Commonalities (birth to age 15)
For the women who were 15 and younger there were several common experiences, life choices, and feelings left unspoken.
Nearly every single woman explained that their fathers remarried within two years of their mother’s death. Some remarried within six months. The stepmother’s personalities were quite opposite of their mothers and most of them mothered without love. There were only a handful of dads who did not remarry as quickly and most of these women had a grandmother or aunt that lived nearby or moved into the house. And some of these women were “shipped off” to distant relatives, not always with their siblings.
These motherless daughters said that most of the time no one spoke about their moms. Diane was seven when her mom passed, shared this, “My mother died in the 1960s and children were actively excluded from what were regarded as adult issues. I didn’t attend my mother’s funeral and it was never talked about. For years and years, I would fret and worry whenever it rained, believing my mother was getting muddy and wet – in my imagination she wasn’t actually in a grave but lying on a mound of clay in a beautiful white gown. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I learned she had been cremated. How much angst could have been avoided if that had been shared with me, young as I was, on a level I could understand?”
Almost every woman had some sort of reckless behavior; promiscuity with several boys, drugs and alcohol, school became unimportant, and staying out or not coming home at all.
Their homes, especially those with a stepmother, felt like it wasn’t “their” home anymore. The majority of women, if not all of them, felt very much lost and alone. Jennifer, who was seven years old when her mother passed, said “I missed her and missed the feeling of being loved.” I think Jennifer sums up how all of us feel, no matter how old we were when our mothers died, “Mostly, there’s still just that little girl inside 65-year old me who longs for her mommy!”
I can attest to that!
Commonalities (ages 16 to 30)
About a half of women in this age group were already out of the house and had children of their own, those still at home were left to take on household chores – while still not discussing the death of their mothers. A lot of these women lived life without fear, and most of them wished that their friends would treat their mothers better. Another commonality was how they took better care of their health especially upon the age that their mothers were when they passed away. Almost all of the women wished that their mothers would’ve lived to enjoy their grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.
Glenda, who was 18 years old when her mother passed reiterates what the younger group of women said about not talking about their mother’s death. “When mum died no one really talked to me about losing my mum and I just had to get on with life.” And Lenore shared, “my dad never showed his grief and we took his lead from him. Our home was just a shell with the four of us trying to muddle along.”
Tammie, who was a little over 16 years old when her mom passed away writes, “I seem to live differently than most others – I cherish more – I’ve more zest and less fear.” Lorie was 29 years old when her mother passed away. She said, “I began to live life more fully because I felt and still feel that you can die young, so, do it all while you can.” And Ann’s mum, who passed away when Ann was 27 years said, “Mum told me to just get on with life and do what I wanted to do as soon as I could do them. Not wait until later as there may not be a later. I therefore pursued my career voraciously and travelled overseas whenever I could.”
Shirley writes, “I’ve been much more aware to seek help, use medical intervention, and live a healthier lifestyle.” Patti, who was 17 years old when her mother died writes, “For a long time I suffered from anxiety because I was sure I wasn’t going to live past the age she was when she died, 49. I was always going to the doctor. Now I’m more relaxed in my health and I do take care of myself. I feel strongly that living and experiencing that my mother didn’t get to do is a great, great gift and I will do what I can to keep my health.”
Pearl passed away from breast cancer when Deb was 30 years old. Deb spoke of only two issues that seemed to have affected her more than most people. “There are women I come in contact with throughout my life that mention they have breast cancer and to remember them in prayers for their healing. They speak about their cancer journey. Of course, all very heartbreaking. I keep to myself the experience with my beautiful mother because I know they want to hear about just a happy ending for life. I guess I don’t blame them. So, while others may comfort the afflicted with words, I keep silent. It’s a sad feeling for me.
When Carly was just 16 months old, her mother passed away at college. Carly writes, “Honestly, as sad as it is to say, I didn’t know any better to miss something I never had… I would say my biggest struggle was not having someone show me the womanly things of how to keep myself up, you know – how to dress cute, hair, makeup… and yes periods (my first one was a major embarrassment.)” In retrospect Carly explains, “I think for a long time especially in school I felt sorry for myself. I often think of what would life have been like if she hadn’t passed so young. Would she have stayed married to my dad? What kind of mom would she have been? So many unanswered questions, but have now come to realize that it’s all part of life.”
Loneliness was common much more amongst the younger group of women. Here is what some of them had to say.
Kathy was 12 when her mother passed away and writes, “You have no idea how devastating this was for me not to have a mother anymore, I cannot describe it, it cuts into your soul.” At two and a half years of age when her mother died, Annie says, “I have no memories of her at all. I don’t have anything tangible in my life that was connected to her. Nothing I can hold in my hand and sense her presence touching it. The feeling of being abandoned has increased dramatically as I’ve gotten older. I spend hours racking my brain for any tiny memory, anything.”
When Pamela was four years old, her mother died in a car accident. She says she was, “very lonely,” and her mother was never talked about in the home. She now has a fear of abandonment issues and an inability to bond.
Lisa was five years old when her mother also died in a car accident on her way to work. Lisa says she felt, “very lonely, no one loves you like your mother or understands you.” Nana was 12 years old when her mother passed away and describes loneliness, “It is an empty void even to this day.”
Maria was motherless at 18 months of age. She describes loneliness this way, “They say you don’t miss what you don’t remember, but this isn’t true. It left a huge gap in my life knowing that she could never sit with them, enjoy TV or books with me… admire my bedroom, buy me clothes.”
At 17 years of age, Patti says, “I felt very alone in my home. My siblings and I were all lost and kind of on our own to survive. No one talked about anything. We were pushed to return to school immediately.”
Jennifer was seven when her mother passed away. She writes, “I missed her and the feeling of being loved… At times I was very lonely. I recall often being curled in a ball on my bed and crying, calling for ‘mommy!’ even in teen years.” Hilah’s mother died just nine days before her 12thbirthday. She recalls how she felt the day her mom died. “Even with a large family, I felt sad and lonely often. I have a vivid memory of walking into the house the morning mom died (I had stayed all night with my cousin) and looking into mom and dad’s bedroom, expecting her to be there. I think I was in shock. That morning plays over and over in my head a lot.”
“My mother died in a drunk driving accident. My father was the drunk who was driving. The year was 1970, this was prior to SADD, MADD, and DADD. I was 9 years old.” Lora adds, “I felt alone. I was the kid with the dead mom. Everyone thought it was contagious. You can’t imagine the hole in my soul (why is my mom dead, am I a monster who deserves this)?
MJ wrote, “My mother was killed by a drunk driver while coming back from an AA meeting on January 20, 1977. It was my eighth birthday.” MJ goes on to say, “I was very lonely and felt that I never really fit in with anyone.”
Maria was only 18 months old when her mother passed away at the age of 22 years. She says, “I find that when I leave people I can’t say goodbye because that just seems so final. I am told I waved goodbye to my mother after a hospital visit and because I never saw her after that, the word goodbye has a strange finality to it.”
How Much I Miss my Mom
Unanimously missed, every single woman had these final thoughts about missing their moms.
“She pops into my thoughts on a daily basis. Some days, they are happy thoughts, occasionally it makes me sad. I miss our conversations, her advice and her love.”-Ann“More the older I get! As my children grow and achieve I think how much she is missing. She never saw them turn 21 or graduate, she will not see them marry and have children.”-Melissa“I don’t remember my mother. I don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse. It’s hard to miss someone you never knew. I do miss the idea of having a mother even though I don’t know what that feels like. I would assume as much as I miss my grandmother those would be the same feelings I’d have and feel for my mom. So, I would say some days are worse than others… I keep her picture, news articles of her death, and special treasures close. I often think of her during the holidays or when my children and grandchildren were born… when I’m sick or just down and out.”-Carly“I still miss her immensely. It has been 50 years which is hard for me to wrap my head around. Motherless for that many years. Wow! I become especially depressed and sad around the anniversary of her death, her birthday, and Mother’s Day. I could never shop for a Mother’s Day card for my mother-in-law. The last time I did, I was crying in Walmart reading Mother’s Day cards. It was heart wrenching. Too painful to try again.”-Hilah“My mother’s absence is a huge, deeply felt missing in my life. I wish I had had a mum to wrap her arms around me, to be my refuge when times got tough, to be proud of my accomplishments and achievements, to meet my babies and be part of their lives, and just be there.”-Diane“I miss my mum more today than I ever had before.”-Vicki“I choke up, even now, as I read this question. I do greatly miss her and miss having lived my life with her in it. I miss her getting to know her grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. Mostly, there’s still just that little girl inside 65 year old me, who longs for her mommy!”-Jennifer“So much it’s impossible to quantify.”-Shirley“Always. I’m sad my daughters never met her. I’m sad she wasn’t there to help me as a new mother.”-AnneMarie“It’s been nearly 25 years… sigh… I still cry… spontaneous combustion of tears at a song, or a scent or something I see that I think “wow, Mom would have loved this.”-Nancy“I still think about her every day, if I am truthful, I miss her more than I missed my late husband, after the grieving, life goes on. I remarried, and have times when I miss him dearly but my mum took a piece of my heart with her, it’s a hole in my heart that I truly believe will never heal.”-Dale“It was really bad for many years. I was so angry and when I had children of my own just made it worse. I miss her every second of every day, truth be told.”-Grace“She has been gone for so long it feels like she didn’t exist sometimes. Initially, I would get ready to call and tell her something and remember she was gone.”-Betty“In the first 20 years I missed her so much and I thought that at some point she would turn up again. I used to talk to her and hope she would give me a sign. We had lost the glue in our family…”-Lenore“You ask me, do I miss her? Yes, every day and will until I draw my last breath on this earth.”-Glenda
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not have an ache in the depth of my heart missing my beautiful mother Pearl.”-Deb“It’s been 46 years and I still feel the void. I’m sad that my children didn’t have my mom in their lives, she very much wanted grandchildren. I often think about how different my life may have been if I didn’t lose both my parents at a young age.”-Kim“I do miss my mother; my family scattered after she died, and we became disjointed.”-Dee“I’m not even sure that I know – I am 50 now and I’m learning that I’ve been stuck in an adrenal crisis for decades in a constant state of flight or fight due to my childhood and my mother’s death.”-Tammie“Hard to miss someone I have been so long without. After not seeing her for 16 years, I found her and we saw each other twice and then she was gone. That was when I missed what could have been.”-Lynn“I still miss her. I don’t think about missing her every day the way that I used to, but when I do it is with a mixture of grief and the “what if things were different? question. I believe that being adopted also played a significant role in my grieving process.”-Cathryn“I miss her more NOW than I ever have… I FEEL her with me so much more nowadays.”-Ros“I’m 61. What I would give for one moment. What I would give just to know that she knows I became a mom, I graduated from college. What I would give for one hug. I think Whoopi Goldberg said it best during an interview about the death of her mother. She shared, paraphrasing, “losing your mother is coming to the realization that no one will ever love you that way again.”-Patti“Every day. Still can get teared up at the thought.”-Ann“Less now than when my children were young. I would have liked them to have grown up with a grandmother. As I get older, you start to think of your own end, so I feel like I am getting closer to her. The pendulum swings the other way.”-Lorie“All the time, every single day. Always have and always will.”-Maria“Every day, every moment.”-Annie“Not a day since July 28, 1958 have I not thought about, or missed my mother. I often wonder “why” and ask God why she had to leave so soon! But I am no longer angry at God because I know He had a purpose for it and one day I’ll know the whole story.”-Donna“I think the Mother is the heart of the family and while I cry from time to time about my loss, the life has to be lived and I hope I continue to live it well.”-Gerardine“Every day, but I understand life more these days.”-Lisa“I miss her every day, I feel my life would have been so much better with her in it.”-Pamela“I don’t have the words to describe the abandonment and loss I feel sometimes.”-MJ“I miss her now more than I ever did as a child.”-Lora“My heart was broken at two and a half years old and it has never been repaired. She missed so much. I missed so much.”-Annie“How much do I miss her, I don’t really know now, she has been gone for 57 years, so it’s like I never had a mother. My father never spoke of her ever, I don’t really know much about her… So that’s about it, I have had a hard life without a mother and I would not want it for anyone – lots of hurdles and hurts.”-Kathy “I was always afraid I would forget her voice, but now I know that it’s the unconditional love that I miss the most.”-Helena