Mother of the Bride Life Passage

September 18, 2015 | By

by Dr. Zanaida Griffin

As a therapist, I have many years experience in women’s developmental issues and theory, but academic knowledge did little to prepare me for actually experiencing the wedding process of my older daughter. My expectations would have been better guided by watching such Hollywood favorites as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, “Mama Mia”, and “Bride Wars”, to name a few. The life transition for both mother and daughter takes on a life of its own!

My 25-year-old daughter was engaged 18 months ago. She is an independent young woman who was supporting herself in a marketing position in Paris, France. Her college sweetheart asked her father and me for her hand and was thoughtful enough to propose in our home so that we could all be part of the joyous occasion.

I had known my daughter’s boyfriend and future husband for several years and grown to love and respect him immensely. I could not have been happier for both of them for their impending nuptials and future life together.

My daughter and I are very close and frighteningly in sync. We had such fun brainstorming and allowing our imaginations to run wild with pla ns for her special day. She made all the final decisions on invitations, location, bridal gown, bridesmaid dresses, program, and all the many details but it would have been exactly what I would have chosen if I were making the final decision. Such creative collaboration is intoxicating. We had such fun!

As a clinician I was aware, however, during the process, that my independent, adult daughter began exhibiting more dependent traits in many of her interactions with me. I had not seen behavior from her like that for the past eight years, since she was an adolescent. It was the connectedness that mother and daughter experience when they have lived a lifetime together before the child grows up and the relationship becomes adult to adult. In this mother and daughter experience my adult daughter came back home (figuratively, not literally) for nurturing, guidance, support, and sometimes distancing to launch this next stage of her adult life—as a married woman.

Likewise, I joined in th e interconnectedness. I found myself not scheduling recreational activities that I enjoyed because I wanted to be available for wedding planning, emotional support, and any sort of wedding details that might come up. I dreamed of weddings—anxiety-producing weddings; bizarre weddings; beautiful weddings; joyous weddings. Sometimes my daughter was the bride, sometimes I was the bride, sometimes we were both interchangeable brides. We were back joined at the hip similar to when she was a little girl. I had insight into my difficulty setting boundaries with her but rationalized that it was for a short time and decided to just enjoy the reconnection.

Another unexpected delight for my first go round as mother of the bride (I have a younger, unmarried daughter) was the love and enthusiasm of my close friends during this special time. They asked me what they could do for me and I told them. I embraced their genuine love and support for my daughter and me. They threw engagement parties, showers, and luncheons. These wonderful women exhibited incredible empathy during this life transition. From a sociological perspective I felt like it was my tribe imparting their life skills and wisdom to my daughter and the next generation. The energy I felt in these celebrations was personally exhilarating but on a broader level it was truly archetypal.

The wedding took place. It was absolutely beautiful and so incredibly meaningful. I could not have enjoyed the entire experience more. My daughter was an exquisite bride. She and her husband are very much in love. I have a warm glow in my heart that holds onto that very special day.

Waving my daughter and her husband bon voyage as they departed on their honeymoon, I felt such a sense of peace. I knew that she was in good hands. I knew, likewise, that I had done all that I could do in raising her; in allowing her to separate as an adolescent to move into adulthood; in supporting her sense of self and boundaries in adulthood; in enjoying our creative collaboration and emotional connectedness during the wedding planning; and finally launching her into this next phase of her life.

This life passage having been successfully completed for both of us I now plan to resume the recreational activities I gladly put on hold during the wedding process— painting, reading, traveling, to name a few. Theory holds that this is how it is supposed to be—the daughter moving on with her life and the mother moving on with hers. My heart also tells me this is how it is supposed to be.

Filed in: Library, Women's Issues

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