This is an excerpt from When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir on Love, Loss and Life (Simple Abundance Press), available on Amazon

The loss of Jennifer (my sister’s five-year old child) was monumental for everyone.  I felt woefully inadequate in comforting my sister, Eileen, or my mother because no one, not even a big sister or daughter, can give much to a mother who has lost her precious child.  That mother or grandmother wants only one thing: that child back in her arms.

The years 1988 and 1989 were sad and dark periods of mourning for our family and they changed me a great deal.  My friend Lennie and my analyst Alex helped me as much as I would let them.  I refer to these days now as my seasons of discontent because I had to rethink every principle and value I held dear.  I learned that my idealism didn’t work anymore.  I learned that control is a miserable illusion I believe was invented by the devil himself.  I learned I had no choice other than insanity if I didn’t accept situations and people I could not change.  I learned I had to accept the challenges that my fate delivered which brought me to my knees and, yes, I had to accept the comfort that tears offered and allow myself, for once, to weep.

By Memorial Day weekend of 1989, six months after Jenny’s death, our daughter Katie had completed her first year of college and our family boarded a flight for a trip to Europe.  After a visit to LeSacre Coeur in Montmartre, Paris, we stopped for lunch at an outside case.  Before finishing, Katie became quiet for a moment, and then looked blankly away.  “What was that, Mom?” she said, rejoining the conversation.  It was subtle, this little disconnect.

“Are you doing okay, Honey?” I asked.

“Just that same funny feeling I sometimes got at school, Mom.”  Then Katie looked away again and while I had never seen a petite mal seizure before in my life, it crossed my mind that maybe that was what just happened.  But I shrugged it off as mother vigilance.

After lunch Rich and Katie took the metro back to the hotel.  During the ride, a thief stole Katie’s wallet and the fifty bucks in it.  She was visibly perturbed, Rich told us.  He added, “when Katie started talking on the train, her thoughts were all mixed up!”  I was concerned.  Days later we were back home when Katie and her friend Kristen went grocery shopping for me.  In the checkout line, Katie became agitated and confused, “Where did we get all of these groceries?”

Being so worked up was completely out of character for Katie.  Alarmed, we called her internist who administered an EEG the following day calling soon afterward with the results.


Mary Jane Hurley Brant

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S.,CGP, is a practicing psychotherapist for 37 years who specializes in grief. She is author of the book, When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir of Love, Loss and Life. In this first person narrative M.J. addresses the suicide of her father when she was 13 and the life and death of her daughter, Katie, of a brain tumor. She is the founder of Mothers Finding Meaning Again. MJ can be reached through her website

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