I still remember the day well, perhaps too well. My husband and I had just arrived at my grad school apartment, returning to Pittsburgh from our honeymoon in Toronto and Niagara Falls. It was 1994, so cell phones weren’t popular yet. The first clue that something was wrong was that there were 14 voice mail messages on my answering machine, all from family members and close friends. Why were so many people calling me when they knew I was out of town for a week? And everyone sounded really stressed out, but nobody said why. Each message said the same thing: “Please call me as soon as you get back from your honeymoon.”
My mom had been ill with a chronic illness for 16 years and had been suffering and in severe pain for much of that time. However, she was alive and happy to attend our wedding just the week before. Because she had been in and out of hospitals for so many years, it was not unusual that she once again had been admitted to the hospital a couple of days after my wedding (and after we had left for our honeymoon). My mother being in the hospital had become, sadly, our family’s “normal.” I had called her a couple of times from our honeymoon, on a calling card. During the last conversation I had with her, she said, “When you get back from your honeymoon, will you come home to Ohio and see me?” Of course I said yes.
What neither of us realized at the time is that I would be coming home to Ohio for her funeral.
The next few days were an absolute blur. I still don’t recall much of that horrible time, other than at some point during the funeral I stood up and told a funny story about my mom eating mangos, and everybody chuckled. My mom would have liked that. She loved to share a good story, and she thoroughly enjoyed telling jokes and making people laugh. She loved life, even though living it often became emotionally and physically difficult for her, due to her illness.
I am a Christian and believe that my mom is in heaven, and finally out of pain. However, that belief did not stop me from feeling MY pain of losing my mom when she had just turned 50 years old. People didn’t know how to respond to the situation, so they said things like “Well I’m sure your mom was glad to be at your wedding!” and “At least you have Ron (my husband) now!” Those statements were true, but they weren’t necessarily helpful to hear. And they certainly didn’t even begin to diminish the trauma of the intense loss I was experiencing.
I found comfort in my faith, and for several months I saw a Christian counselor, who helped me acknowledge and begin to accept my mother’s death. I also joined a grief support group after my mom died. It was nice to meet others who had lost a loved one, but everyone’s stories were so different from mine. I found it hard to relate to the middle-aged man who had recently become a widower or the high school girl who was grieving the death of her grandfather. Yes, we all had experienced losses; however, what I really needed was to be around other women who had lost their mothers.
A few months after my mom’s death, I was browsing at a bookstore and found the book, “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman, which had just come out that same year. It was a book specifically about my loss, so I bought it and read it cover to cover with hardly a break. Finally, someone understood what I was going through. I had just become a therapist a few weeks before my mom died, but after reading that book I knew that, someday, I would facilitate the type of group I wished I could have joined back then…a Motherless Daughters support group.
And that brings me to this point in my life. I have been married to the same great guy, Ron, for more than 20 years. We have two awesome teenagers. I have worked in many different areas of mental health and therapy during that time, often working part time jobs around my kids’ schedules. I now have my own private practice as a psychotherapist. My main specialty, near and dear to my heart, is working with Motherless Daughters. I see my clients for individual therapy, and I also run a Motherless Daughters support group in Pittsburgh, PA. I am beyond honored and blessed to be able to give these amazing women what I wished I had 20 plus years ago: an emotionally safe place to meet with, connect with, and learn from other Motherless Daughters.
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Sarah Rashmee Souri, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. She has undergraduate degree (BA) in journalism. Sarah has been a therapist for more than 20 years and has also been a Motherless Daughter for 20 plus years. She provides individual therapy and runs a Motherless Daughters support group in her private practice office in Wexford, PA. She can be reached at: email@example.com