A Journey Chronicling Memories of Grief and Loss

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Storytelling is a natural and necessary human behavior. Stories connect us to our past, our present, and, most importantly, to each other. They tease our imaginations and stir our emotions. Certain stories are gifts to those who listen. Such is the case with those gifted to me on this journey exploring the grief and loss of motherless daughters. Inspired by a photograph of my grandmother, the story of her death after childbirth, and my own mother’s lifetime sadness over having lost her mother when she was very young, I conducted audio interviews with women in similar situations. I interviewed women, like myself, whose mothers lost their mothers. I also interviewed women who themselves were left motherless at a young age. In this paper, these separate stories are connected within the overarching story of my personal journey to find, listen to, and document them. I also include my own reflections on grief and loss in the context of the story of my mother and grandmother. Within the stories, I have interspersed treasured photographs and written memorabilia. I conclude the paper with a description and analysis of my process: the preparatory research, the training in audio interviewing and documentary, my approach to the interview process (including the failures, successes, and surprises along the way), and my conclusions about what I learned and accomplished as I pursued and completed the project.

A twenty-minute audio documentary titled Conversations: Mothers and Mother Loss accompanies this written work. In the documentary, culled from sixteen hours of audio interviews, the nine women who lost their mothers at early ages or whose mothers lost their mothers at early ages grant us intimate connection with their stories through their voices.





Shanahan, Maryanne (2018). A Journey Chronicling Memories of Grief and Loss. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17211.

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.