I had the absolute pleasure of being in the company of 24 wonderful, entrepreneurial women for 4 days recently to participate in, and learn to facilitate, transformational ritual workshops for women. The depth of the work was profound, both in revealing places where I can still heal more deeply and where I can improve and grow into my facilitation skills. I am deeply grateful for the experience and relationships created there.
The four days of the retreat were organized around the four cycles of a girl/woman’s life: maiden, mother, queen and crone.
These cycles were related to the four directions, the seasons, the elements and the primary energies of those cycles, with an awareness of how these cycles impact every area of our lives, including our businesses. What a beautiful way to look at our lives as women. Those life cycles and approximate ages are:
Birth-22: Maiden/Spring/East/Air/Innocence/New Beginnings
Without a doubt, the most profound revelation for me, and the thing that I am MOST grateful for, is the crystal clear knowing that I received about the next expression of my work in the world. This knowing came at the end of the first day, as we shared our experiences in the Maiden phase, from birth to about age 22, the age I was when my mom suddenly passed away.
Many women in the room shared some pain in their relationship with their mother, even when their mothers were generally loving and nurturing. I work with women on this subject all the time but there was something about witnessing it so deeply in this particular group that allowed me to recognize the universality of it in a different way. This “mother wound” is deeply held in women, individually and collectively.
I further embodied the knowing on the second day when we worked with the cycle of Mother. By the end of that day, after ritual and experiences that brought us deeply into the energy of the Divine Mother, there was no question in my mind that I had come home to the fullest expression of my work.
I know that I am here to work with women whose mothers have been unavailable to them, especially during their maiden years, due to the mother’s early death, mental, emotional or physical limitations, family violence or the chronic illness of another family member.
Although the dynamics of each of these specific areas are different, the common thread is that the young female child was unable to receive and trust the consistent, unconditional love and nurturing of her mother. This is not intended to be a “blame the mother” perspective, but rather a recognition that our mothers, and their mothers and all the mothers back through our family lineage have done the best they could, within her particular set of circumstances. And to honor the experience of the young girl in all of us who have felt this absence.
It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that I have finally come full circle to this realization. My mom passed away when I was 22 and in my final week of college, two months before I got married and moved away to start my “new life.” Although I’ve grieved the loss of my mom in fits and spurts I’ve never really taken the time to fully honor her passing, my loss, the changes it ignited in my family and the implications for my life as a wife, mother, grandmother and mature woman.
At 22, just out of college, newly married, living in another state and excited to create my new life, I couldn’t begin to understand most of that. It wasn’t until this past year, when my daughter graduated from college at age 22, my grandson was born, and the anniversary of my mom’s passing all occurred in a 3-day span, and then I turned the age that my mother was when she passed, that I came full circle into my grief. The bittersweet confluence of those events happening in that compact time frame stirred up something deep inside of me calling out to be healed.
In the past 15 months I have been a period of deep reflection and quieting, leaning in to listen to the voice of my heart about what I really wanted. Not quite a “Dark Night of The Soul” perhaps, but pretty darn close. I have done difficult, deep shadow work, rebranded my business after doing 3 days of intense shamanic work to dive deeper into my Soul’s purpose, made the decision to close my beautiful office and did my best to let go of busy work and allow myself more time and space to “just be”. All, I am sure, in preparation for this new clarity and energy to flow.
At the retreat, during our sharing about the Crone/Winter/Death cycle, the facilitator mentioned the Jewish practice of not expecting someone who is grieving to participate in social events for a year. When I heard that I immediately realized that I had given myself permission to grieve my mother and integrate all the healing and learning that came with that over these past 15 months, 38 years after my mom’s passing. It’s no surprise that this timing coincided with me turning the age that my mom was when she passed, at the exact age and time in my daughter’s life.
And now, as I face my birthday at the end of this month, marking the end of my passage through the age of my mom’s passing, I feel a sense of renewal and rebirth. I have reached an age that my mother never reached, my children are now all older than I was when my mom passed and I have become a grandmother, which my mom didn’t get to be with my children. Such a bittersweet, beautiful example of the cycles and rhythms of life!
Sometimes, even when we know a lot, we miss things that are right in front of us. I never identified as a “Motherless Daughter” until the mid-90’s, nearly 20 years after losing my mom. In 1996, in the span of a week I had three new female clients, all with different presenting problems, come to see me in my psychotherapy practice. As I spoke with each of them I discovered that they had all lost their mother at an early age. It was as though I was getting a message from Spirit through them, that I needed to address the loss of my mom. I discovered and devoured the fairly new book, “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman.
Over the ensuing years I have often thought about focusing my work on this population but have circled around it, identifying as a midlife reinvention expert, passion and purpose coach, women’s healing expert, trauma expert and dream coach, among other things. Each of these variations on a theme have brought me in touch with women who had experienced the loss of absence of unconditional, nurturing mother love.
So I have come home to the place I never left. This work was planted as a seed many years ago and has taken this long to come into full bloom. All of the events that I’ve described, along with some others I haven’t, had to happen in order for this new expression to be birthed. As painful as some of them have been, I am grateful for the path and the journey that has brought me here, back to the Spring, the place of new beginnings, honoring all of the seasons and cycles of my life.
Thank you mom, thank you Spirit, thank you Great Mother and all those who have played a part in my journey. I look forward to mothering this new creation and supporting you in mothering yourself!