In the Motherless Daughters Journey class, we facilitate an exercise called “What was it like?” The goal of the exercise is to gain insight into how the age of our mother loss affects us today as adults. There is a basic formula that lends insight into how we function as adults and how our mother loss influences who we are today.
+ Age of loss
+ Stage of Emotional Development
+ The ability of our caretaker or support system to allow us to grieve our loss
= Long term adult adaptability ( In other words how emotionally balanced, centered, and adaptable we are as adults.)
So let’s get at it. This will be an introduction to get us started thinking about our own experience and how our mother loss affects us today. In the future we will talk about specific ages and their challenges related to mother loss.
First identify your age of loss. Notice I did not say the age of death. This is not difficult for some, but for others it is a different story. How old were you when you first experienced mother loss? The actual loss could have happened long before a mother’s death or the mother may still be alive. When did she stop nurturing you?
I recently had a conversation with a 55 yr. old woman who was experiencing lots of emotion over the recent death of her mother. When asked the question about age of loss, she realized it was about 10. Think about this. When did you first experience mother loss?
Next is a mini-introduction to Erickson and the stages of emotional development through our life span. Erickson basically tells us that each age has several emotional development tasks that we need to master. When we accomplish these tasks, we move on to the next stage.
When we experience a significant emotional event, like mother loss, we get “stuck” in that age group emotionally, even though we grow biologically into adults. Our emotional responses relate to the age of loss. Even though we are adults, we may respond emotionally at a much younger age. This is a life long process unless we become aware of this and learn how to manage this. You do not have to stay “stuck.”
Now let’s put your age of loss together with the stages of emotional development. Select the age and stage that best defines when you first experienced mother loss.
We stop at the 60s only because most women lose their mother in the age groups that are listed. Occasionally there are women who experience mother loss beyond 70.
The last part of the formula has to do with those around you and how they supported you in your grief process. Did they allow you to talk about your mother loss? Did they pretend that she just wasn’t there? Did they encourage you to share your emotions and feelings? Did they depend on you to help them instead of helping you? Was there a safe place for you to grieve your loss?
Next month we will focus on the effects of mother loss in the 0-6 year old group. What age and stage best represents you?