Motherless Daughters


These two little girls, my mother’s half sisters Mildred and Javene, lost their mama when they were only 7 and 4 years old. I was startled to realize that both of my grandmothers lost their mothers when they were very young – 3 mos and age 11.

It seems that people often died back in the early 1900s of something or other but given that both of my parents were lost to their mothers through a relinquishment to adoption, I felt that not having mothers mattered.

Without the support of one’s mother, it becomes easier to lose one’s child when a woman is still very young herself. My paternal grandmother lost her first born son when she was only 23. My maternal grandmother lost the only child she ever birthed when she was only 21. It actually isn’t unusual when a mother loses her child that way to never have any more children. It is a secondary infertility that statistically has a greater risk of occurring when a mother loses her child against her will, as my grandmother did.

I didn’t realize when my own daughter went to live temporarily with her paternal grandmother while I tried to make some money driving an 18-wheel truck that it would become permanent. It did though, when her dad married a woman with a child and then they had a child together – a yours, mine and ours family.

I thought if she lived with at least one of her divorced parents it was an equivalent situation. I didn’t think I really mattered that much. Only recently has she admitted that she suffered from my absence. And only recently have I understood that I mattered more than I had imagined.

I have learned a lot about the impacts on women who lose their mother to death (which is very permanent – as was the situation for my grandmothers and my mom’s half-sisters) by reading an excellent book by that title – Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss – written by Hope Edelman. I highly recommend it for any woman who has lost her mother – even those who only lost their mother the way my daughter did or through relinquishment to adoption.



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