Editor: Mary Jane Hurley Brant is a psychotherapist and author specializing in grief, loss, and serious illness. Her website is http://www.maryjanehurleybrant.com/. Last week she posted a comment on Dr. Neimeyer’s answer to a mother who had lost a 30-year-old daughter [here’s the link: http://www.aftertalk.com/ask-dr-neimeyer/index.php/485/] This week Dr. Neimeyer chose to comment on Ms. Brant’s post.
Mary Jane Bryant’s posted comment:
As a bereaved mother of an adult daughter I would like to comment today on your recent response to another poor sad bereaved mother, who I think you approached with a compassionate heart. The shattering experience of a child being torn away from a mother is a devastation beyond words. There are so many experiences attached to the child throughout the child’s life–we moms remember every one. Our lives were built around our child’s happiness and protection and when we cannot do that because the world had another plan, we wonder just who the heck are we now. We are lost. We feel devastated. We long for them. We miss them.
You are correct in saying that everything is now reassessed when a parent has lost a child: friends, relationships, work, marriage, in-laws. I facilitate a group for sorrowful mothers called “Mothers Finding Meaning Again.” We are now 29 mothers strong. These are the kind of women I prefer being with now because they are modeling courage to one another and to me. We talk about how to go on. We share the insensitivity of others to us, generally speaking and how others don’t say our child’s name. Would you mind that I place the link here? http://www.maryjanehurleybrant.com/groups/ In the Philadelphia area the Inquirer is doing a story about us. We always take in new moms. Our story is slated for Mother’s Day weekend. I am very proud of our moms.
I have found that the moms in our group who create do better overall. Four of our mothers are writers, two are painters, several like to cook. Maybe your bereaved mom could begin a group? Believe me, other parents will find her. She could do the group or find one through her church or place of worship. She could contact me if she would like and if she’s in my area she could come to our no-cost meetings. We would love to have her.
Thank you for a generous response to your bereaved mom. I will pray for her peace and that of her husband, too. I would invite any thoughts you’d like to share in response.
Mary Jane Hurley Brant
Dr. Neimeyer’s Response
Dear Mary Jane,
First, I have to say that I feel heartened and inspired by your resonant words, and still more by your remarkable work. Speaking with deep authenticity from within a loss that few people have the courage even to imagine, you bring to light the ineffable sadness of a child’s death for her or his family, parents and mother most especially. But equally, you raise up the astonishing compassion and resilience that this traumatic loss can engender, and the caring sisterhood to which it can give rise. Key to this, of course, is a willingness to stand close to the pain without drowning in it, to learn what it has to teach, and to affirm life all the more poignantly for having stood in the shadow of death. For all of this, I salute you and the courageous companions you have assembled on this path, and am pleased that your link in the above letter will open the door to many others who walk a similar road alone.
Second, I am gratified that you have drawn on your obvious skills as a therapist and conjoined them with the intimate knowledge of parental grief forged in your own tragic loss of an adult daughter. To have opened the space for such a group in your schedule, in your life, and in your home has given a gift to the many women who have responded and reciprocated, as it offers a similar gift of wisdom, acceptance and affirmation to many others through your eloquent writing here and on your blog, I am also appreciative of your awareness that the group is most healing when it couples fearlessness in holding your mutual pain with artistic self-expression, whether in visual media, words, cooking, or fashion, as suggested on your site. The creative and caring act of founding other support groups further extends this sense of generativity and new beginnings. To give ourselves permission to embrace both consolation and creativity, reaching in and reaching out, makes a deep kind of sense to me, learning from death something of what it means to live.
And so, I want to symbolically sit in your circle, as I also sit monthly in a literal circle of bereaved parents that practices similar rituals of conviviality and connection, meeting and meditation, in my city of Memphis, Tennessee. Though I wish every bereaved parent could be spared the suffering you know intimately, I also wish that all those who sadly join you in this knowledge could find the sense of community and creativity that your group has conjured and continues. On the fourth Wednesday of this month, the evening when you meet, I will raise a glass of wine to all of you, and salute you with the toast, “To love, and to life.” Thanks for lighting the way.