Lighting the Mother Shadow

For some women Mother’s Day is not an easy day. Daughters of mothers who could not nurture them experience emotional fallout that casts a shadow over this day and indeed their lives.2015-03-06-16-13-26

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about the Stone Child, stories and myths of the unmothered child. As women, we experience “collapsing” and a wild hunger that leads us to doubt ourselves, have difficulty seeing ourselves accurately, engage in risky or impulsive behaviors, and an inability to maintain healthy boundaries. We miss training in honoring our intuition, consciousness and common sense. To recover, women must grow their own internal mother to warm their hearts through meditation, connecting with nature, bodywork, and support from other women. We must come to terms with our mother shadow, for she never leaves us. We cannot escape the effects and should not. Our mother effect is the source of our creative energy. Our emotions are our guide to our next level for spiritual development.

Recently a group of women in my workshop found this meditation helpful in acknowledging and developing resources for supplanting this loss. First we wrote two letters: what happened and its effects, and then how we wished it had been. After writing these, we meditated. Then we shared with each other what we wanted to hear our mothers say to us and we said that to each other. Try it and see if it helps you or someone who struggles with a problematic relationship with the mother, whether alive or deceased. Have someone read it to you with your eyes closed or record it in your own voice and listen to it. The forward slash is a hint to pause. Peace to you.


Sit comfortably in your chair, breathe into your lower belly and exhale. Feel the seat and the clothes you are wearing. Sense any tensions or body sensations without judgment. Breathe into them until you are completely comfortable.

You are tired and you need a vacation alone to rest. /You want to go where nature sustains you. It may be a forest, ocean or mountain or all of these. /You go to the train station, and feel your feet on the pavement. You hear the sounds of the engine, feel the heat and smell the air, the heaviness of the train.

As you step onto the train, you relax and know you are safe.  /This train has  seats like booths, where one passenger sits riding backwards. /You choose an empty seat riding forward. /As the train slowly pulls out of the station and picks up speed, /you are so grateful as you can just sit back and watch the scenery go by. /The gentle swaying and rocking of the train on the rails soothes you. /You feel the gentle sunlight on your eyelids.

The train enters a tunnel. /You bask in the quiet blackness, warm and peaceful. /You rest. /When you open your eyes,/ the train comes to a stop and more passengers board. /A woman  sits in the seat facing you. /You silently resent her being there /and hope she won’t talk so you can rest. /You are surprised and a little curious, though, that she resembles your mother so much./

The woman’s eyes meet yours with interest, warmth and appreciation./ You start to look away out the window/ but it is too late. She begins talking, gradually, softly and steadily telling you her story./ As the train moves along and she continues to tell you her story, /you look out the window to cope with what she is telling you. You hear her tell you /about her sorrow over her daughter, /how she loves and misses her, /how she failed her when she was growing up /and how she wishes it could have been different. /It was not what she intended.

You tell her you are amazed at how much she looks like your mother,/ As you listen, you sense that she would understand it if you told her your story as well.  You decide to tell her what you wanted to hear your mother say.

The woman looks at you with understanding,  reaches into her bag,  pulls out a gift and hands it to you. This is the gift of your journey.

As the train comes to a stop, the woman has to leave. You tell her thank you and know you can call upon her anytime you wish. She squeezes your hand, looks kindly into your eyes, and asks you to tell her daughter, if you ever meet her, how much she loves her.

You watch her get off the train /and disappear into the crowds./ As you continue on, you realize the woman was your mother’s mother.  /You are a part of a circle of women who are everything they can be in their world. /Y

You hear your mother say:

“You emerged from me. I was your source. You were my destination. You are not me. I am not you. We are a part of each other. Whatever You thought I wanted you to to be, it was really what I couldn’t be. Whatever you wanted I wasn’t able to give was part of the plan, part of your developing who you are. You are not to blame. I gave what I could. No one is to blame.”

Now You realize your strength is from what she could not give you. Your wound can be healed. Your heart can be strong. She is not bigger or stronger, absent or scary anymore. You no longer try to get from her what she can’t give. You have grown up. It is your turn. You have the power you need, the nurturance you need. You find the love you need. You strengthen your heart through forgiveness. You forgive her for not being able to meet your needs. You forgive her for being limited. You forgive her  Release her and let her go. It is your turn now, your turn in the circle.

Now you begin to discover her gifts you overlooked before: maybe resilience, maybe determination, maybe kindness, maybe courage, maybe a reason to be different. You look up and the cloud shapes look like angels smiling on you. You are seen, You are known, You are loved. You breathe deeply into the fresh breeze. Your heart expands and your muscles relax.

You breathe deeply, feeling the seat beneath you. /you feel your clothes on your skin, wiggle your fingers and toes,  as the train comes to a stop back at your home. You are ready to open your eyes. You step down 1,2,3, onto the platform. You have made it safely back to a new home.

Published by Fessup

A 30-year veteran educator and counselor, published author, lifelong student of religion and women's issues, educator with, mother, and lover of Far Side humor.

2 thoughts on “Lighting the Mother Shadow

  1. Shirley, I love you and bless you! Thank you for sharing my story without evening knowing!

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