Mother Child Bond is Unique

Published: 15th December 2009
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The biological connection between a woman and her fetus streghtens with the movement of the baby. The bond betweeen them is a powerful link to a new life. There will never be another relationship that will be equal to this one.

First let's focus on your biological mother and assume that she raised you and you and she had/have a continuing relationship in the traditional sense.

She conceived you, carried you in her body as you grew into a viable person, birthed you and gave you life. Then the fun began. For the first 14 years of your life she fed you, nurtured you, taught you right from wrong, took you to school, kissed your boo boo's, cheered you on to victories big and little, encouraged your curiosity, supported you in every way, and if you were lucky, loved you unconditionally.

Then you became a teenager and started to pull away and in doing so you turned away from her and perhaps against her. Boys and girls may experience this separating phonenoma differently. Developmental psychologists call it separation and individuation a necessary process for children to become responsible independent adults.

When you left home to become your own person you may or may not have maintained a close relationship with you mother. Sons tend to grow more distant and daughters tend to stay closer to her mother and to her mother's family bringing her husband or partner into her extended family.

If adolescent separation issues aren't resolved as adults the distance grows even greater. While mothers yearn to be cherished and loved unconditionally this may never happen and a mother may be relegated to a second or even third class person in her adult child's life.

Not all families live close-by in the same town as they did 50 years ago. Parents and children are frequently separated by miles. Physical distance affects emotional closeness. Adult children are busy with their own careers, families and friendships and their mothers may have to settle for an occasional telephone call, or greeting card. Visits on holidays are treasured times together, and at times can be problematic.

New boundaries must be set with considerations for in-laws. Grandchildren and revised traditions with the new family take precedence. If a son's or daughter's new family don't do things the same way a mother must step aside and keep her mouth shut.

In the natural order of life's events mothers die before their children. The emotional response to a mother's death is affected by many factors.

The time in a child life that his/her mother dies is critically important. If a mother dies when her child is under seven, the child will grieve but not fully understand the concept of death and over time will have diminished memory of her.

If a mother dies when a child is between 7 and 12 years they will feel great loss and sadness. During this period the mother is primary in her child's life and her absence could interrupt emotional development for some time. Thinking is concrete during this time and the child will ask questions that will help process his/her loss. If a mother's death occurs during adolescence 13- 20 years her child may suppress the emotional feelings surrounding her loss. A mother death will create confusion at a time when hormones are churning and separating from her is the developmental goal. Emotions are confusing and beginning to transition from childhood to more mature feelings. Her death could affect future relationships with women for both daughters and sons. Her death may be internalized as abandonment and fear of abandonment may prevail in future relationships.

If a mother dies later in her child's adult years after her son or daughter has established their own family she will fade into the wallpaper and become less important. The amount of contact, intimacy, respect that is ongoing is the key to continuing a positive emotional bond. Some adult children maintain a token relationship with their mother out of obligation, but not sincere love.

When a mother dies there be little grief, maybe even relief that the middle position and the consequential obligations to become a caretaker are lifted. Grief is personal and the stregnth of the mother-child bond will determine the depth of grief when your mother dies.

There are cultural differences of course, which affects family dynamics. And families vary in living arrangements. For example, son who lives with his mother until she dies may be emotionally devastated when his mother dies. A daughter who talk to her mother daily on the telephone and maintains a strong mother-daughter bond will miss her mother terribly.

When parents die the adult child becomes the torchbearer of the older generation. The cycle of family relationships passes onto the adult children.


Mother-child relationships are often littered with old baggage. Bitterness and resentment may overshadow feelings of love for both a mother and for her daughter and son. Memories distorted by disillusionment, drug use, gender identity, if not resolved may linger and strain the relationship.

Sadly some women who give birth are not capable of filling the role of mother. I had a 28 year-old client who had two children 6 and 4. After her husband committed suicide and she was so traumatized and emotionally bankrupt that she didn't have an ounce of reserve to deal with her children's emotional or physical needs. For the first year after his death she couldn't do the laundry, pack school lunches, go to school functions, help with homework and worst of all support their grief at losing their father.

She felt terrible guilty and intellectually she knew she should be there for them, but wasn't able to. Through counseling we arranged for family and friends to substitute for her until she could resume her maternal functions.

It is possible that later in life the adult children may have memories surface of neglect or emotional abandonment and fault her. It is best to work through these issues and realize that she did the best she could under the circumstances.

Motherhood is like a minefield left abandoned for several years then explodes one day without notice. There are no schooling required to be a mother, no one to tell a woman how to handle all situations. Parents are vulnerable people who suffer conflicts, abuse and difficulties. When this happens children may suffer. A woman who wants to parent differently can seek books, classes and the advice of more experienced mothers for guidance. But in the end most mothers parent the way they were raised, with the same do's and don'ts.

When mother's die, old or young they will be remembered for a few moments out of the many years spent nurturing, loving, shaping, scolding, teaching their child. All of your life until one of you dies your mother was the one person who did for you what no one else would ever do. She gave you life!

You only have one mother--- cherish her and appreciate the life she gave you and all the sacrifices she made to allow you to become the person you are today.


Dr. O'Connor is an expert in dealing with the grief that follows the loss of a loved one. The mother- son or mother -bond is unique and special. When it ends in death of your mother you not only lose the person you lose the relationship too. For your own sake nuture, heal and honor this relationship while you still have time. Show her and tell her how special she os to you before it's too

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