Dear Mum – A writing group for mums grieving their own mothers
Bianca Leggett tells us why she set up an online reading and writing group for women who are grieving their mums, while making sense of becoming a mother themselves. And how you can join.
“Prefer not to hear about Mother’s Day?” asked Asda.
Well, Asda, it’s complicated.
Mother’s Day used to be such a reliably happy day. Year after year, I’d wobble up the stairs with a tray loaded with tea (PG Tips), yoghurt (lemon), muesli (a fancy one) and a homemade card, knowing my mum would always act with total surprise and delight. Since Mum died it’s become a day which calls for wariness. Careful plans must be made to create just the right balance of calm and busyness to sail right through it.
I always hoped that becoming a mum would return Mother’s Day to a thing of pure joy and celebration. And it has! But on the other hand, it really hasn’t.
So many things are like that when you are, as I’ve learned to describe myself, a motherless mother. Having a baby means looping back on happy memories of my mum with a fresh perspective; it’s the chance to pay forward all that love I was given. But it also opens up a fresh source of pain. Suddenly there’s a gap in my life where not only my mother, but also a grandmother, should be—and the questions I have for her pile up higher and higher with no hope of reply.
I started Dear Mum for women like me who are figuring out how best to live in the world without their mums, while also caring for a tiny human being. I wanted to share with them some things I had discovered for myself.
First, that writing can open up a space where jumbled thoughts and feelings can be brought out into the light, or even shaped into something new and profound. Second, that when someone reads your writing with care and understands and feels something that you have felt, it feels amazing, it feels like the best kind of company in the world.
I had learned this by taking a course with Mothership Writers during the fog of early motherhood and lockdown restrictions. If I had ever doubted that real community can be formed through a screen, it changed my mind completely. I started joining forums and reading stacks of books on grief, creativity and writing therapy; ideas for themes, images, poems and writing prompts started to cohere into something like a course.
I called the group Dear Mum, because we would use letters as a place to keep having the conversations with our mums that we all so needed, but also I hoped the name would carry a doubleness; that we would be looking at ourselves as mums through the lens of our writing, and doing so with a bit of kindness.
I’ve just said goodbye to my first group, and I loved every minute of our time together.
I had worried that, as leader of the group, I would need to keep my emotions under wraps, but instead I found that being open and vulnerable seemed to help cement trust. I feared that such heavy subject matter would make the time drag, but instead I was surprised by how much we laughed together and how quickly our time was up.
No two losses are exactly alike; our experience is shaded by everything that we are and that has happened to us along the way. Even so, the feeling of community in shared experience is so powerful. And as for the amazing women who made up my first ever Dear Mum recruits, it was an absolute privilege to get to know them through our writing and through our conversations together.
I’m not sure how I’ll be feeling on Mother’s Day this year; maybe I will feel sad and maybe I won’t. But either way, I know I’ll be spending some of the day in a quiet room with my notebook open on my lap, thinking of all the other women who will be doing the same.
Facebook: Dear Mum Group
Artwork by Mia Hague miahague.co.uk