Many of the women at the center as a child were taken into state custody and grieve the loss of the mother daughter relationship, or as mothers, they grieve the loss of their own children to the state. Those losses took place many years ago, sometimes as far back as 30 years ago – to a time when they were children, or young mothers. For some, it is a deep wound that has impacted their lives in many ways, and has not healed. If not grief over those losses, we all have lost either children or mothers to illness and death.
Several years ago, the center sponsored a support group for mothers who had lost children to state custody. We have chosen not to continue that group. It seemed to dwell on the past. Rehashing abuses from a long ago seemed to only re-open wounds and did not lead to growth.
Mother’s Day however, is a particularly hard time for those who have lost mothers or children – for whatever reason. We felt we needed to pay attention to it. So on the Friday before Mothers Day this year, we tried something new. We offered a “Ritual of Remembrance” for anyone who wished or needed to remember a lost child or a mother. About eight women came.
Woven throughout the hour and a half, were poems and quotes that acknowledged the tender side of Mother’s Day, beginning with sharing the original intent of the day – mothers gathering to protest the loss of their sons to war.
Each participant was invited to bring the person(s) they wished to remember into the circle. They picked up a talking stick, named their person(s) and told what they wished of that person. A few anticipated stories of state involvement in separating families were shared, but we also heard of estranged relationships in families and deaths of mothers or children (one that was a very recent loss). Amidst those stories, there were tears.
When the naming of memories was complete, the women were led in a meditation that involved making a vessel for future hopes. The facilitator explained and demonstrated how to create a clay pinch pot, and gave the suggestion that as they work, rather than consciously try to make a pot, they work with eyes closed, thus allowing the pot to take the shape it wished.
Soft music was turned on. As each woman shut her eyes and held out her hands, she was given a baseball size lump of damp, and she began to work. Keeping eyes closed, each woman rolled the clay into a ball and with her thumb began to push a hole into the center of the ball. From there, turning and pinching the bowls grew.
After about 20 minutes, the women were invited to open their eyes and examine what was born. As they felt comfortable doing so, each one shared their thoughts and feelings about the creative process, and talked about what they saw in their bowl or what they would put into it. Some bowls had strong, thick sides that had a solid look to them, while others, bigger and thinner walled, were very delicate. Some were symmetrical, others not. There were tall narrow ones, and short wide ones. And each bowl spoke something of and to the journey of its creator.
Before leaving, we blessed each other in turn by holding our bowl up and speaking words of blessing to the group. Each woman was honored with a bunch of flowers to take home along with her bowl, and was given a handout with the readings from the day. By the end, tears were transformed into smiles that morning. It hopefully made a hard weekend easier. We will do it again next year.