"A son is a son till he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter all her life," goes the old Irish saying. Though there is an extraordinary bond between every mother and child there is something unique about the relationship between a mother and daughter. Often, the daughter is called upon to care for an aging mother or a young mother looks to her mom as an example and emotional supporter while raising her own children. These and many more reasons make the death of a mother especially difficult for a daughter.
"While growing up a daughter watches her mother, imitates her while learning how to be a woman," said Nancy Kiel, bereavement coordinator at Loyola University Health System. "As we age that relationship grows into a friendship that is cultivated and the bond grows stronger."
Mother's Day can be especially painful for a daughter who has lost her mother. To help women through the grieving process Loyola University Health System offers a half-day workshop on the Saturday before that is completely devoted to daughters without mothers. It includes a time of remembrance, meditation and art therapy.
"The mother/daughter relationship is one of the strongest human bonds and once she's gone you'll always miss her," said Kiel. "Just because she's gone in person doesn't mean she's gone in your heart."
Kiel encourages all daughters to find a special way of remembering their mother whether it's through a ritual or just talking about her with loved ones.
"Your mother's love will always be a part of who you are. Why not continue to celebrate her on her special day?" said Kiel.
She suggests spending Mother's day in a meaningful way such as going to church, spending time with friends and family or doing something your mother would have enjoyed.
"My mother has been gone for 19 years and I still miss her," said Kiel. "My mom always encouraged us to get something special. To celebrate her life my sister and I go shopping and buy something we don't need. I can still hear her say, 'Nancy, just get that.'"
Kiel also stresses that what a person needs to help her grieve will depend on what stage in life she's in as well as her relationship with her mother.
A woman with young children who has lost her mother can feel afraid, wondering where she will find guidance in raising her own children.
"A young mom should look for other motherly role models like another relative or an older friend. It's ok to ask for help. She won't take your mom's place, but will be a support and can help guide you through difficult situations," said Kiel.
Kiel recently spoke to a woman who had cared for her aging mother for 10 years and when her mother died she felt she had no purpose.
"Even when our loved one is gone we still have a purpose. I encourage women to think about what they did before their mom was sick. What made you happy? What helped you find fulfillment? You've been giving so long, now it's your turn to receive," said Kiel. "Surround yourself with supportive people and things that bring you joy to get through."
It's also difficult for women who didn't have good relationships with their mothers. The grieving process can lead to feelings of guilt and regret.
"You need to process what happened, but remember relationships are a two-way street and those circumstances are behind you," said Kiel.
Though everyone must go through the grieving process there is a difference between grief and depression. Here are a few warning signs that a person may need additional help:
1.Any intensified feelings including sadness, anger or guilt
2.Constantly worrying over "what if"
3.Not being able to accomplish day-to-day tasks
4.So disorganized and unfocused that functioning and decision making is impaired
5.Unable to enjoy the good things
Loyola University Health System