Motherless, Motherhood, Mother Me

June 1, 2011

I tried to keep my mother alive after she died.  I filled a huge truck with nearly 100 boxes of items I felt represented her and drove it from Florida where she lived to Virginia where I live.  I willingly inherited a truckload of clothes, collectibles, cookbooks, kitchen appliances, artwork and ashtrays.  Once home, I skimmed a few items off the truck and put the rest in storage.

Guess what?  Her clothes didn’t match my style.  Her cookbooks couldn’t replicate her cooking.  Her collectibles were too numerous to display in my one-bedroom apartment.  After nine years I sold or gave away almost all of those items I transported from Florida.  Rising monthly storage fees made me face the facts—holding onto her possessions failed at keeping her alive.  I was motherless.  Once I grieved her death, I could let her stuff go.  It had become clutter—burdensome, unused stuff with emotional entanglements. 

After acknowledging my grief about being motherless, I started seeing other connections linking clutter with grief around the issue of motherhood.  For two years one of my clients and her husband participated unsuccessfully in the in vitro process.  When that didn’t work, they made a valiant effort to adopt a child.  Two exhausting years later they agreed to end their search with child-less results. 

At that point she re-designated the hoped-to-be-adopted child’s nursery as her home office.  Over time clutter filled the room.  It had become a hodge-podge of papers, crafts, jewelry and artwork.  Not until she decided to de-clutter her office did she understand why she had never made it her own in the years that followed her quest for a child.  Underlying her reluctance to embrace the space was deep grief.  Wanting so much to be a mother and yet unable to realize her desire, grief and its ancillary symptom—clutter— had immobilized this mother-in-waiting. 

Another client in her fifties lives alone with her clutter.  She recently discovered she had been suffering from profound grief for years.  A relationship she had in her twenties had resulted in unwanted pregnancy and abortion.  The responsibility of motherhood without the commitment of her partner was untenable.  Years later she found herself barricaded by clutter.  Once she began to lift the veil of grief surrounding those early adult decisions, she started dismantling the barricades she had erected over years.  Her energy and enthusiasm to clear her clutter are now making way for new and healthy relationships.

A river of grief runs through each of our stories.  Whether we are feeling the loss of our own mother or of the children we did or didn’t have, it becomes important to grieve the loss and traverse its pain.  The subtle consequences of not dealing with it at first lead to greater pain in time.  That is why mothering ourselves is good.  Sometimes all we can do is feel the sadness, shame, and regret that may pervade our every day.  Mothering ourselves is necessary.

Bev Hitchins © 2011

One Response to “Motherless, Motherhood, Mother Me”


  1. Thanks Bev, this is so helpful. I have been in this space and it is still cluttered. One of the last things I still have here, after 13 years, is my mother’s golf clubs! Today, I will donate them and feel better that someone can use them. She is strong in my heart.
    Once again, you have hit a homerun.
    Elaine Gibson


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