The breadth and depth of the loss that the untimely death of a mother invokes can hardly be imagined. It is an event that changes the whole course of life. It is difficult to fully comprehend what it is like to be shaped by the experience of this kind of adversity in early life.
When we witness the impact of early loss on those who are close to us, we can see the devastating blow it is and the indelible mark it leaves. The loss of a mother in early life remains a live issue in the hearts and minds of those who live their lives with perpetual loss and pervasive grief.
This is the first book of its kind to give a voice to daughters bereaved of their mother in early life in Ireland. Written with insights gained through ground-breaking research, it contains powerful and compelling testimonies. It helps us to understand the meaning of early maternal loss through the direct experience of those who have suffered it. It also aims to provide all those who find it helpful, with hope for the future. This eye-opening book raises the profile of early bereavement in Ireland. It will be of interest to all those with a personal history of early loss, and to those who are interested in finding out more about the meaning of loss in the early life of a child.
Anne Tracey is a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Ulster and a long-standing member of Cruse Bereavement Care, Foyle, Derry.
Reading Surviving the Early Loss of a Mother: daughters speak by Dr Anne Tracey, I was struck by the thought that this book has been badly needed for the last fifty years. Its here now, and anyone reading it will be moved and strengthened by its revelations.
It should come as no surprise to anyone to learn that young children who experience the death of their mother are often profoundly damaged by the experience. It is a loss which etches itself on their emotional landscape for ever. The cloak of silence surrounding the death means they have no outlet for their questions, tears, or fears, either at home or at school, and so they grow up knowing and not knowing. One of the survivors tells us that things must change. She is adamant that the practice of talked to Tracey were speaking for the first time about the impact on their whole lives of losing their mother. She comments that "very few parts of life remain untouched by the legacy of early bereavement". Indeed she goes on to reveal some extraordinary discoveries, such as the daily fear of dying at the same age as their mother, and even of dying the same way.
Everything about maternal death is discussed here - how do you tell a child her mother is dead? Can the child or children see their mother in the coffin? After seventy years one survivor still cherishes this memory:
I was hesitant. I said "I dont know if I want to go in". But I braved it and I thought she was lovely. And I said, "Look at the lovely gown she has on", you know, the way she was all in white. The coffin was all white and I can see her to this day in it.
But for another:
The only time I saw her coffin was when I was in the church, and actually, years and years later, I used to have nightmares about what she must have looked like; because it was a car crash you assume the worst.
It was a hard struggle for the fathers to cope not only with their own grief but also that of their young children. Traumatised daughters often knew their father had suffered a terrible loss. They sensed he couldnt talk about it without breaking down, and so the silence descended on everyone. "Everything went serious, the mood changed, the colour changed. We used to come home from school and it was just sombre."
One of the most valuable things about this book is that it takes the reader through the survivors own childhood and adolescence, and up to their experiences of motherhood. It all makes for some very thoughtful reading, and I recommend it highly to anyone who comes into contact with children both professionally and otherwise.
- BOOKS IRELAND, October 2009