Two years ago I left my job as a kindergarten teacher of ten years. I was a teacher before that, in elementary school, or primary, as we say in Ireland, for a couple of years. I loved teaching and I love children but I was no longer feeling fulfilled in my job. It took me a couple of years to put some savings together and plan for at least eight months of living expenses without needing to work. My plan was to write my memoir. I needed to write my story for several reasons.
I lost my mother to cancer when I was 11 years old. Mam was diagnosed when I was 5 and for the next several years we watched her fight, suffer, live and die. The pain of all this was almost unbearable but my brother and I were blessed with an amazing father so we pushed on through to the other side. Thing is, I never really grieved back then. I cried, of course. My heart broke. But I wanted so badly for everything else to be okay: Dad to be healthy, my brother to be healthy and there to be no more illness in our lives. I was so tired of hospitals and drips and doctors. My 11 year old self couldn’t handle anymore anxiety after years of hoping, praying, anticipating. My memoir would allow me the opportunity to process what happened from a safe distance. I would relive my thoughts and emotions, be in control of my story and make sense of it all on the page. Writing my memoir would allow me to heal.
And it did. While I wrote I often cried. I laughed too. And I realized how blessed I have been in my life. Writing about Mam’s actual death had me hanging my head in sorrow while tears dripped on to the table top. At times I sobbed aloud. Every time I revisited that scene my emotional response was the same. But gradually the sobbing subsided and I found peace. I broke through to the other side. I was ready to leave those twenty four hours behind on the page and spring forward.
I came to understand that before and after Mam’s illness there was so much love. I was such a happy little girl. My parents were attentive and loving. Writing about my happy childhood brought me all sorts of good feelings. And following Mam’s death my father cared for us with such devotion and love that I realized my memoir would not be complete without paying tribute to his huge heart. I saw that my father continued on after Mam’s death with grace and courage. I was able to look back on our family story as a whole story – the good and the bad, and by writing it all down I was able to see that beneath all the suffering emerged a true love story. My life has always been filled with love. Suffering: yes. Anxiety:definitely. Trauma, grief and anger: yes, yes and yes. But so much love. And plenty of happiness too.
My main reason for writing this book was to reach out to others. To continue a conversation that Motherless Daughters and grieving families are now having, that they weren’t having when I was growing up. I knew of no motherless daughter when I was a child. As a family we spoke about Mam, but there were no books for me to read, no person outside of the family to talk with about my feelings. Starting an author’s page on Facebook was my way to connect with people about grief and loss, in particular motherloss. It’s also my way of sharing posts about writing and how writing can be healing.
“Through our reading we can travel to other times and other places, into other peoples minds and hearts and souls: it is a transcendent experience.” ― Louise DeSalvo
Through my local Motherless Daughter’s meet-up group I recently found out about a workshop at The Blackbird Studio For Writers in Portland. A small group of us had the pleasure of learning from Hope Edelman and Jennifer Lauck while discussing our stories and writing. Through social media I’ve been networking with women who are reaching out, writing and learning about their own pain and loss. Writing is bringing women into my life who would never be in my life otherwise and the connection to these brave, inspiring ladies is one of the best reasons for sharing my story. To not feel alone, to find compassion and support, to be acknowledged for who you are because of how your life has been, are gifts that come only from opening up and revealing who we are, and why.