By Megan Roth
Everyone speaks about the devastation a parent feels at the loss of a child, but what about a young child who losses their parent? A young girl who losses her mother before she has a chance to truly make a relationship with her can be devastating as well and, the effects can be long reaching and felt throughout the girl’s life.
Girls who have lost their mother are encouraged to “deal with it” and to “move on”. That, however, is easier said then done. Those young women are not yet at the point in their life where their cognitive reasoning is as developed as an adult.
“Mother loss is heart breaking. The one person, the first person, we are connected to is unavailable forever,” said Tracy Bowie who lost her mother at the age of 14 to ovarian cancer.
To help motherless daughters, a term coined by Sandy Banks of the L.A. Times, Bowie is organizing a “Motherless Daughter’s Luncheon” to help cope with a potentially difficult day; Mother’s Day.
Young women who lost their mothers before they had a chance to grow up and truly know the woman outside of her caregiver role is not really an issue talked about. Bowie says many people who go through this are told well before the person is ready to move on and deal with the pain the same way a fully grown adult does.
“A motherless daughter’s development is suspended in time, in many ways she remains the age she was when loss occurred, just as her mother never ages,” she said.
She believes this issue is not widely spoken about because it isn’t something a person is likely to put on display.
A young women who lost her mother at a young age is likely to hide part of herself, or try to. Bowie explained it as not using the information as an introductory piece to themselves, though being sure everyone can somehow see it on them.
“A motherless daughter does not discuss her continued grief easily because the expectation of anyone who has not suffered this type of loss is that she should ‘be over it already’ 10, 20, 30 years or more after it occurred,” she said.
An adult person has learned about loss and death in ways a young person has not. They are able to understand what has happened and begin the grief period almost immediately after they are given the news. Yes they may always feel pain and grief when thinking about the person they loss, however they are able to understand those feeling and continue on.
A child is unable to understand what has happened and why they feel sadness and grief. Depending on the age the loss occurred it is entirely possible the child will not understand that her mother is not coming back.
“In many aspects, an adult daughter’s life remains as it did before the loss. However, a child’s entire world has been changed. For a child, life is no longer infinite,” explained Bowie.
Depending on the age of the child at the time of the loss it is entirely possible she may be thrust into adulthood well before she is ready, never truly experiencing childhood.
It is possible for her to be given responsibilities she is not yet ready for, but fall on her nonetheless. She may have to assume the responsibilities of the mother. That is she could be taking care of younger siblings and trying to manage the household “handling the stresses of an adult.”
“A child beings the grieving process when she is mature enough to, burying it deep until she is strong enough,” Bowie said.
She explained the grieving process will come in waves not the continual process an adult would face. This can leave emotional scars lasting decades that sometimes are hard for them to understand, even as an adult.
With the waves of grief can come all sorts of different complications. The young girl may experience poor academic performance in school, bouts of depression or even a negative attitude. This is sometimes attributed to development but really is the girl dealing with her grief the only way she knows how.
“The daughter is left to deal with the loss of her mother as though she had the maturity and cognitive abilities to process it like an adult, even though the person who most likely would help her to achieve this goal, the one she needs most, is gone,” Bowie said.
The loss of a parent at a young age can affect a person throughout their life. For a young girl to lose her mother can leave lasting scars well into adulthood. This is simply because she is lacking the relationship that would have been build with her mother to explain and show her the world.
The experiences and learning moments are all done alone. With each new experience and leaning opportunity the girl feels the loss of her mother all over again.
Where does a girl go to when facing the loss of her mother? Who teaches her all the things a mother teaches her daughter?
Often she will try to find a surrogate mother, someone who is willing to take her under her wing. This isn’t always possible. Sometimes a motherless daughter faces things alone because her friends don’t understand, and her remaining parent and family members are facing their own grief.
Sometimes this can cause the girls to feel alone as she doesn’t have someone to turn to with her questions or to share her grief.
“A daughter who loses her mother in childhood or in adolescence also loses the ability to develop an adult relationship with her, to discover who her mother is as a person beyond her caregiver and perhaps even forge a friendship with her as well,” said Bowie.
To try and forge a relationship with one who is gone is a hard task and, it is one motherless daughters are faced with. They will turn to people who knew her mother to try and find out who she was and where she came from.
The girl will also often find connection with her mother through a physical reminder, like wearing pieces of her jewelry.
Participating in support groups often help as well.
“Being in a room with like minded women is ‘normalizing’,” said Bowie.
The luncheon Bowie is organizing is a support group of sorts while acting as a fundraiser for different charity organizations.
This year the proceeds for the event will be donated to the Canadian Cancer Society, as a tribute to Bowie’s mother. Each year the recipient organization will change.
Tickets for the event are $40 each. The event will take place at the Redmond House on May 1 starting at 11 a.m.
The final day to purchase tickets to the event is April 27 and can be purchased through Bowie.