Is It Almost Mother’s Day…Again??

Yep, Mother’s Day is just around the corner…again. Funny how it sneaks up on us motherless daughters (or daughters who have mothers who choose not to be present). The day that, for me, is often filled with sadness, gratitude, joy, and regret all rolled up in a ball has snuck up on me for almost 70 years…well, 69 to be exact. 

My mother died when I was eight (you do the math). On Mother’s Day when I was young, my dad and I planted the windows boxes my mother loved. An older lady at my church invited me to the Mother/Daughter Banquet (they were a big thing in the 50’s). I can’t remember feeling particularly sad on Mother’s Day (or the week preceding) but I always felt “different” and being different wasn’t necessarily a good thing when you were a kid. 

Much later, as a mother of three kids, I enjoyed the usual burnt pancakes, handmade cards, and popsicle stick gifts kids give mothers on their special day. It was the only day of the year I didn’t have to cook which made it really special. I didn’t think too much about being motherless during those years. Too busy wrapped up in being a mother myself I guess. 

It was only later, after the kids were grown and I began to consider the ramifications of being a motherless daughter of a motherless daughter (my mother died at 34; her mother also died in her 30’s), that I became more introspective on Mother’s Day. 

I can’t say that I miss HER because I barely remember my mother. But I miss the IDEA of having grown up with a mom. Living far away from my grown children, I also miss being celebrated as a mom and celebrating my daughters, step-daughters, and daughter in law. 

Reminding myself that Mother’s Day is just once a year helps as does not dwelling on the retail extravaganza that proceeds it. I usually buy pink carnations in memory of my mom (they covered her casket) and I make an effort to do something I enjoy. I’ve never felt like a victim of my past circumstances. In fact, I think about how I am the person I am today (who I like most of the time) because of my life experiences. 

As a motherless daughter, I learned:

  • to be independent 
  • how to be more resilient and strong in the face of adversity
  • to have empathy for those who have experienced loss. 

What about you? What have the losses in your life taught you? How are you different either because of or in spite of your experiences? How will you remember your mother this Mother’s Day? How will you take care of yourself? 

Happy Mother’s Day (if you’re a mother), Happy Sunday if you’re not. 

Winnie and Mershon Horn — Mother and daughter.

Learning To Rejoice With Another’s Good Fortune

Let age, not envy, draw wrinkles on thy cheeks. Thomas Browne, English author

My mother would have been 102 today. She’s been dead for sixty-seven years. A friend of mine recently lost her mother—she was 102. I’ll attend her funeral on Saturday and celebrate her long and well-lived life. 

Do I resent my friend for having her mother all these years? Absolutely not! I’m thrilled that this is how life worked out for her and her mother. And yet, so often I read posts from motherless daughters who are resentful of others who still have mothers. If this is your attitude, I challenge you to dig deep and look for the roots of this feeling. Do you wish others pain because you have pain? 

From my experience, this attitude is more common in our society than one might realize—not just with some motherless daughters. Social media only adds to the FOMO (fear of missing out) attitude or envy about another person’s good fortune. We’re all sisters in this life—I beg you to find a way to rejoice with each other as well as expressing empathy for those who are hurting.  

Affirmation: I rejoice in the good fortune of others.

Coaching question: If you’re a motherless daughter, what do you feel when you see a daughter having a good time with her mother? Feelings, of course, are neither good or bad, but if you throw negative energy onto another—that’s something to take a look at. What can you do to shift your attitude?  

Winnifred Martyn Horn – 8/18/1919 – 5/24/1954

Embracing Gratitude On A Difficult Day

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie, author

Today, Mother’s Day in the U.S., will be difficult for many women especially in the era of COVID-19 when families are apart. Even in normal times, Mother’s Day is frequently challenging for women who have lost their mothers, are estranged from their mothers, have no children but wish they did, and those who have lost a child. I’m thinking of you all. 

Today will be sad for me as well but gratitude will help me cope. I’m grateful for the friendly smile I inherited from my mom, I’m grateful for my wonderful family, I’m grateful for my good health and, even though it’s a day for mothers, I am grateful for having had an amazing dad.

Affirmation: Naming all that I’m grateful for has cheered me.

Coaching questions: What helps you feel grateful on a difficult day? What difference can you make in someone else’s day today?


Looking For the Motivation To Do Something Big?

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. Dr. Seuss

Researching, writing, publishing, and marketing a book is hard work. I’m sure some people are wondering why a seventy-four-year-old, retired grandma wants to tackle something so demanding. I recently found a quote that answers this question. “If your ‘why’ is powerful enough, your ‘how’ will be easy!” 

As I meet motherless daughters and participate in motherless daughter groups, my “why” is evident. I want to give these grieving daughters tools to help them move forward and live life to the fullest even though they have experienced trauma in their lives. I want to assure them that they are not alone and give them examples of other daughters who have experienced a similar life story and not only survived but thrived. I care “a whole awful lot.”

Affirmation: I have discovered the “why.”

Coaching question/request: Is there something you’re yearning to do but are hesitating because you think it is too big or too scary? If the answer is yes, find the “why” in what you want to do. Then, just do it!

The photo is of two beautiful women (sisters by adoption) I interviewed for my book. They shared their amazing mother loss story in order to help others to “never give up!”


Do No Harm

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trail and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. Helen Keller

It breaks my heart to read the posts of women in motherless daughters’ groups telling a woman who is in despair over having just lost her mother that “it doesn’t get any better.” I shout out at my computer screen, “For Heaven’s sake, give the poor grieving woman some hope!” Most of us, if we’re over forty, have suffered at least one significant loss. If all of us never recovered, we would all be walking around like the Zombies we were that first week.

Even Helen Keller, with no sight, hearing or voice, offered a message of hope for those who are suffering and in distress. I believe it’s important to acknowledge a person’s grief, be with her in the reality of the moment, offer no platitudes like “she’s better off now” or “you’ll be fine.” Saying nothing is always good. Your presence is what matters. Reminisce with her about her loved one. But please, please, don’t take away hope for her future. Hope may be the only thread attaching her to this Earth—sometimes, literally.

Affirmation: I will be a healer and do no harm.  

Coaching questions: What helped you most in times of despair? What words or presence brought you the most comfort? How do you show up for your friends and family in times of distress?


Are You Angry?

It’s not about anger being good or bad. It’s what you do with it that matters. John Schinnerer, PhD

Motherless daughters are frequently angry. They may have anger toward a mother who abandoned them, anger toward a mother who died, anger toward a family who is not supporting their caregiving efforts, anger at themselves for being stuck in a grief cycle. As Dr. Schinnerer says, there’s nothing wrong with anger but how it is expressed can determine whether it is destructive or productive. 

Anger can move people and feelings forward. Asserting our anger helps us speak up for what we need and let’s others know they are stepping over our boundaries. As we acknowledge our angry feelings, we can begin to understand what lies beneath them and move forward with our recovery. Honor your anger, express it constructively, then release it.

Affirmation: I acknowledge my anger.

Coaching questions: What’s makes you angry? What step can you take to productively communicate your anger? How will you affirm that your angry feelings are a necessary part of your journey towards recovery?


Are You Walking In Your Mom’s Career Footsteps?

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist

I just finished reading What’s Mom Still Got To Do With It? by Ilana Tolpin Levitt, MA, M.Ed. It’s about how your mother and the style of her parenting affected and continues to affect your career. Interesting concept from a woman who has vast experience on the topic. Levitt describes five daughter types. Daughters whose mothers died early are most likely Bootstrap Daughters, a daughter who propels herself up with little or no help from others. This model seems to ring true for many early loss and abandoned daughters with whom I spoke. Minus a role model or the encouragement of a mother, these daughters have taken their futures and the possibility of career success into their own hands. They frequently value financial security which is especially true for those who had alcoholic or distant fathers and uncertain, insecure childhoods. 

If you’re struggling in your career choice or performance, take a look at your mother/daughter relationship, or lack of relationship, and see what you can uncover.

Affirmation: I dig deep to determine my success.

Coaching questions: What affect might your mother experience have on your career choice and performance? Be specific. Knowledge is power. Make changes as necessary.

Bring Life to Your Life

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens. Khalil Gibran, author of The Prophet

Ana, one of the daughters I interviewed whose mother died when she was young, gave me this great quote, “Make sure you don’t leave anything in your closet, unworn, with tags on!”

My interpretation of this is; live every day to the fullest, be present in your life, not bemoaning and living in the past. Ana also gave us this piece of advice, “Don’t be mad that’s she (your mother) is gone, be glad you’re still here.” Words to live by….thanks, Ana.

Affirmation: I’m glad I’m alive.

Coaching questions: Do you have anything in your closet, unworn, with tags on? What’s keeping you from wearing it? What’s keeping you from celebrating life and living in the present? What’s one thing you can do TODAY to bring more life to your life?


Shhh….It’s A Secret

With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact that you kept it does not. Sara Gruen, author, Water for Elephants

Secrecy is a common denominator in families where tragedy has struck. The C-word is never mentioned, photos are put away, death is not discussed, the unspoken agreement is “don’t ask, don’t tell” where everyone is expected to act as if nothing happened.

After talking with motherless daughters who grew up in this type of environment, I’ve come to believe that the secrecy was as much of a problem as the actual death of their mother. Silence increased their feelings of shame, especially if their mother died when they were young and there was no opportunity to process their experience by openly acknowledging their mother’s existence and their profound loss.

Affirmation: I’m an open person.

Coaching questions: What are your family’s secrets? How have they affected you?

Triumph Out of Adversity

Always seek out the seed of triumph in every adversity. Og Mandino,  author of The Greatest Salesman in the World

Bettie D. Gonzalez died of a rare cancer at the age of 38 leaving behind six children ages 7-16. On becoming adults, these children established The Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation of Hope whose mission is to “Empower, Serve and Mentor Motherless Daughters”. This year they awarded twelve $1500 scholarships. In addition, they mentor motherless girls starting at age 14 in the greater Dallas and Detroit areas. Their purpose is to create a legacy that motherless girls who are mentored with wisdom, love and empowerment will one day pass on the same to future generations.

Turning their tragedy into a thriving legacy was a way to triumph over their adversity and a beautiful model for us all.  Thank you Gonzalez family.

Affirmation: I can be triumphant.

Coaching question: In what way can you turn your tragedy into something positive?