Daughters Mourning Mothers

Earlier this week, I went to a workshop sponsored by our local hospice. It had a singular focus as indicated by its title, Daughters Mourning Mothers, and it was such a therapeutic experience that I found myself wishing for more than the allotted two hours.

“They get me!”

Over the course of the evening, I realized a couple of things. First, discussing grief with a seasoned hospice professional is a uniquely comforting experience. While the other grief group I attended had its place; for me (and everyone is different), the fact that this one was affiliated with hospice made a world of difference.

I also found that just being in the presence of a dozen other women who are going through something so similar was very cathartic. Losing a mother is different than losing a spouse, sibling, child, or life partner. All losses are equally traumatic, but there is a special understanding between those who share the same type of loss.

A Complex Relationship

Of course, the mother/daughter relationship, no matter how strong, almost always has periods of turbulence. Several of us noted the feeling of sadness and regret over those times we wish we’d been a little kinder or had more patience. Quite honestly, I wish I remembered my mom B.A. (before Alzheimer’s). I hope those happy memories return in time… but that’s another post for another day, isn’t it?

For many of us, our mothers were our biggest cheerleaders. Although they didn’t necessarily agree with every decision we made, at the root of it all, they supported and loved us no matter what. They understood that we would make mistakes and they didn’t judge us for it or love us any less.

Moving Through the Haze

As one sage young woman said, no matter the situation, on some level, right up to the end, our mothers understood that we did our best, and they forgave us for things we are still condemning ourselves over. Although it comes very naturally to remind others that they’re human, why do we continue to beat ourselves up over our own shortcomings? It’s something we all need to work on – being gentle with ourselves.

The evening left me feeling validated and fully in touch with the fact that my grief is just that – it’s mine. My perception is my grief. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, no set timeline or expiration date. It’s all about walking through the grief, one step at a time…

Feel free to leave a comment sharing your own grief experience.


  1. Ella

    Thank you for sharing another excellent writing Ann. They are never less than outstanding, but, your Mom is with you all the way now. I have a wonderful Mother (RIP) and yet experienced Mother/Daughter drama, my Dear Mom always wanting the best for me. I didn’t realize it then, but now I do, at times saying should have or shouldn’t have. We had wonderful times together thru all of life’s ups and downs and we were always in each other’s corner. When roles changed, she would tell me we were running out of time, “Not enough left,” she would say and I would disagree, in denial possibly of the what ifs, surely lacking patience. She was right once again, time did run out, but what a wonderful ride it was, her taking care of me always, the best trip of my life. I dwell on errors of my ways, don’t know if I’ll ever not, yet I know she forgives, that was her kindness no matter what the circumstance, “Let it go, it’s over and done with,” she would tell me. I am in awe of her, her beauty, her wonderful attributes (too many to mention), her legacy. I am so proud to be my Mother’s daughter. I cherish my memories. I love her, miss her and us.

    • Ann Napoletan

      Beautiful, Ella. I’m sure your sweet mother is smiling down on you right now, with just as much love and pride as ever. Hugs, Ann

  2. Elaine Mansfield

    Wonderful, Ann. I so agree that it helps to have a support group with people who share a similar loss. The hospice where I volunteer is having a workshop on Mother-Daughter Loss and Forgiveness this week. I just finished facilitating a 4 week hospice group for women who lost partners or spouses and will continue doing this twice a year. I’ve been in groups with a variety of losses, but knew that I wanted this focus for my group–and spousal loss is closest to me now. As you know, my mother died of Alzheimer’s the year before my husband’s death, so I could use a mother-daughter group.
    In my crystal ball, I see you facilitating a terrific group for those dealing with parents with Alzheimer’s or perhaps more generally with mother loss. Wish I could participate.
    Best to you in all ways, and Happy Mother’s Day next week. I’ll be lightening a candle for all our mothers and all those with Alzheimers.
    Warmly, Elaine

    • Ann Napoletan

      Thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement, Elaine. I truly value your opinion. Happy Mother’s Day to you…

  3. Michelle Mackres

    Having lost our Mom last Oct.exactly 1 wk.after she turned 85,from a sudden heartattack,my sis and I support eachother in our grief.However hard it is,and even though my sis is many miles away,it somehow makes it little easier,having eachother who understands what we’re going through.We have cpl brothers too who are grieving in there own way, but it is different for daughters (part of that can be,that Men dont express themselves as much as women).But daughters do have very special relationships with there Moms.I was lucky enuf to have become great friends with Mom.Not everyone is lucky enough to have gotten to know there Moms as more than just-Mom,nor to have had as long as I was blessed to.To those needing help,insight, my sis just sent me a book for my bday, “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman.

    • Ann Napoletan

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Michelle. Someone else mentioned that book to me – I need to pick it up. Thank you for sharing the recommendation. ~Ann

  4. caroline

    I miss her and it stinks .it hurts I find relief in talk in to her in my heart.my brothers are horrible i took care of her.
    I loved her.

  5. Leslie

    My Mom passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack in June 2013. I was with her when this happened. I had been with her earlier in the day and she was fine. I am 45 now and she was 74 at the time of her passing. She was the youngest 74 yr old I will ever know. She was so fun loving and full of life. She called me later that evening and asked me to come over, that she thought she had food poisoning- she just didn’t feel right. When I got to her apartment minutes after her phone call, we bickered back and forth about calling 911 She did not want to call 911. She looked at me and said ” I think Im going to pass out” and she did. I called 911 and they came within minutes, worked on her for 45 minutes but could not revive her. The paramedics had a pulse when they got there, then they didn’t, then a pulse and finally announced that she was gone. I was in shock. I don’t understand how I made it back to my house that night. My Mom was my very best friend. We were a team. I loved her very much. She was a single mother and did a wonderful job of raising me. I am an only child and in my adult years, felt like she was somewhat smothering. I regret feeling that way now; I regret not calling because my whole life is sorrowful. I regret not calling 911 the second I arrived at her apartment that night. I am exhausted all the time because in my mind, I cant accept that she is gone and I keep waiting for her to come back. I am lost.

    • Ann Napoletan

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Leslie. I think it can be doubly difficult when you’re an only child; all of the responsibility – and the guilt – falls on us. Perhaps you can find a good grief counselor or support group in your area. I do think the validation you receive in that setting is helpful. It’s been almost two years since I lost my mom, and I don’t think the grief and sense of loss will ever end. It ebbs and flows. Some days, I find myself wanting to do nothing but cry – no apparent trigger, it just comes out of nowhere. The pain changes but I don’t think it ever goes away… Sending you prayers. ~Ann

      • Leslie

        Thank you Ann, for your very thoughtful response. I sincerely appreciate it. And thank you for all of your support and wisdom you offer on this website. I understand about the ebb and flow of grief. It is certainly ever present. But I do strive to honor my beautiful Mom by living life, loving my loved ones and appreciating all the beauty in the world. That is what my Mom would want.

        • Ann Napoletan

          Beautifully said. If there’s one thing this disease taught me, it’s to live for today, enjoy every moment – tomorrow isn’t promised. It gave me more of an appreciation for the simple things. Like you, I try to keep my mom’s memory alive through the way I live my life and through my advocacy work. I believe she’s still guiding me every step of the way.

  6. Pamela

    Thank you for this article, I lost my father in October 2013 to Alzheimer’s and my mum lost her partner of 55 years. We tried to recover but my mum’s heart was truly broken without him and a month ago she died at 79. He was healthy and alive one moment then developed a pain in her shoulder and spent one night in hospital and was dead by midday. I have been left spinning in that haze between disbelief and pain. I am worried that I seem to feel nothing and have not yet really wept. I have a 9 year old beautiful boy, who was the light of my mum’s life and just need to be as normal as possible for him. He says I am not the same happy person I was before my dad died and he misses that. Please tell me I will find my laugh again?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>