It is true that we have lost something.
Growing up without a mother, I lost something. I lost the love of two parents. I lost the nurturing care of a mother. I lost the gentleness, the soft hair strokes that a mother gives to her daughter. I lost a best friend. I lost someone to teach me about boys. I lost someone to teach me about girls. I lost someone to teach me about hair, makeup, and clothes. I lost someone to teach me about me.
I lost my mother when I was four years old to breast cancer. I was too young to know her. A large portion of my adult life has been spent researching her. I have spent hours asking people about her, looking at photographs of her, thinking about what she would have said about this and that, and wondering if she is still out there somewhere in the universe.
To all my Motherless Daughters, it is true that we have lost some things. For a long time, all I could focus on were the things that I lost, the things that were missing. There were never any shortages of things missing. Even when I didn’t think about what was missing, people would remind me of it. People would remind me of it in the frozen look on their faces when I told them my mother had died. There are even books out there for us with the sole purpose of telling us what we missed out on. I know these are well intentioned, but they also teach us that we have grown up lacking.
But what I have recently realized is that there are things I have gained, too.
Growing up without a mother has made me tough in ways even I can’t understand sometimes. It has taught me about the impermanence of life and the importance of prioritizing our relationships above all else. I can’t quite explain how this happened, but I have always placed happiness above all else and I think it’s a consequence of my upbringing.
My experience has made me grateful, too. While growing up without a mother or mother figure was challenging at times, it has made me really grateful for the people in my life. When you lose somebody so close to you, you learn from an early age about loss.
It has made my soul wise beyond my years. It has helped me to heal others. It has taught me what to say and what not to say to people who have lost loved ones. It has shaped my being. It has motivated me to want to be a healer of others. It has made me unafraid to talk about pain.
My experience has taught me how to seek love outside of the family. I had to learn how to find love in friendships, from an early age, how to find women who weren’t afraid of my pain or the loss that I experienced. Friendships have always been really important to me. This has given me a myriad of different personalities and life perspectives to learn from. I have learned how to be resourceful, to seek what I need.
One of my teachers and mentors always says: “Every experience has losses and gains.” I am not saying that I am happy that this was my experience. I am also not saying that there is always a silver lining, because I think this can be a very simplistic and naïve outlook on trauma and loss.
I am saying that I have learned it’s okay to look at the things that my experience has given me, rather than always focusing on the things that it’s taken from me.
The greatest gift of my experience has been my unwavering desire to be a mother myself, to be able to become exactly the kind of mother that I want to be. I don’t know where it came from or why it’s there, but it is in the deepest seat of my soul. Maybe it was planted there in the short time that I knew my own mother.
Whatever it is, it has always been a spec of light in dark times. And sometimes that spec is enough to light up my whole existence for a while.
Author: Ali Mariani
Editor: Travis May