The impact of losing a mother on mental well-being

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse Mental Health

As discussed in previous articles mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

While many have spent the last few days celebrating and honouring their mothers in the mother’s day season, some will be struggling with grief as they are reminded of their mothers who have passed on.

The bond with a mother starts even before birth and mothers are often our first caregivers and losing a mother at any age can be devastating.

How does losing a mother as a child or adolescent affect mental well-being?

The early loss of a mother can be traumatic and can put a child at risk of many mental health challenges in childhood and later on in life.

Parents provide physical and emotional support for children and the death of a parent can have a disastrous effect on the welfare of a child.

The death of a mother will result in massive upheaval for young children, changes in lifestyle, changes in caregivers and insecurity about the future among others.

All this can result in decreased self-esteem and self-confidence, anxiety about the future, fear of death, depression and psychological trauma.

Without adequate support, early loss of a mother can erode the resilience of young children in the face of other life challenges and can even affect how their personalities develop.

Adolescence is a critical developmental period where there is rapid physical and emotional growth.

Parents play a significant role in guiding young people through this period.

Studies have shown that losing a mother at this point in life can affect the psychological and social development of a young person particularly social skills, the ability to form stable relationships and ability to regulate one’s emotions.

Again without adequate support, loss of a parent during adolescence also increases the risk of depression and anxiety.

If you are caring for a child or young person who has lost their mother, it may help to:

  • Let them grieve and include them in the funeral processes.
  • Allow them to ventilate difficult emotions, including guilt and anger.
  • If you are the surviving parent or also grieving the loss of the mother in some way, allow the child to see some of your grief to normalise the process for them.
  • Ensure the child is safe both physically and emotionally and well provided for as much as is possible.
  • Help the child or young person build coping skills and resilience in order for them to continue to face and overcome life’s adversities.

How does losing a mother as an adult affect mental well-being?

The death of a mother even in adulthood can be a challenging loss.

When the death is unexpected this can make the grieving process difficult.

Even when the death is expected, and you are mature and settled in your own life, the death of a matriarch often brings new responsibilities and roles to those who are left behind and this can be a challenging phase of transition.

The death of a mother will often come with a loss of a sense of safety and covering. Grief will even occur where there was a strained relationship with one’s mother.

How can one cope with the loss of a mother in adulthood?

  • Remembering the legacy that they have in you as their child and what they taught and imparted to you while they were alive, the values, beliefs and skills they taught you that you have assimilated in your way of life.
  • Talk about your mother to trusted friends, share happy memories and difficult emotions, allow others to see and share your pain.
  • Allow other mothers into your life, not to replace your mother but to strengthen your support network and help in your healing process.
  • Seek professional mental health services if you feel you are not coping.

If you think that you or someone that you know may be struggling with grieving their mother, please contact your nearest health service provider and get help.

l Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by: Dr Chido Rwafa

Feedback: Dr. Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse +263714987729 (AHFoZ ; [email protected])

You Might Also Like


Take our Survey

We value your opinion! Take a moment to complete our survey