chimamanda adichie nails it: “all of these stories make me who I am. but to insist only on these negative stories is to flatten my experience, and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. a single story creates stereotypes. and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”
“the girl whose [mom/dad] died.” meet the uninvited moniker that will follow you into whatever office, campus, party, or other sphere you happen to inhabit at any given moment. the preceding stories that made you who you are, forgotten; the notion that your parent lived before he/she died, irrelevant.
two days after my mom died, i went to my first read-through for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. i’d been cast earlier in the semester as Puck, the role I’d longed to play since the 8th grade. apart from the director and stage manager, not one person found out throughout the entire run of the show. here was the one place on campus where no one knew me: where i could slip seamlessly into another story.
i just finished Hope Edelman’s deservedly popular Motherless Daughters (more on that, later.) i saw my own story mirrored in countless other women’s, whether they’d lost their mothers at two or twenty. and while there was something incredibly comforting to see my special brand of crazy put to words and rationally explained, i found it too one-sided. nearly 250 pages in, i had discovered a myriad assortment of potential psychoses and attachment issues that a motherless daughter could safely anticipate. while there is unparalleled comfort in discovering you’re not alone (hello, creation of peer community), i have yet to meet the wounded, one-dimensional daughter or son one would expect if one simply kept to the grief aisle.
yes, i am a motherless daughter. but i am also a daughter who was mothered. and i am so much more. if nothing else, let this be an attempt to stop caricaturing grief.