Losing a Loved One
Death unearths deep feelings about family. The death of a parent, in particular, calls attention to both the importance and the fragility of family, often
compelling women to put family first in their own lives. They become proactive as part of the grieving process, mourning the loss and healing by creating their own families. Usually, these women have the support of the widowed parent, who encourages them to have a child to continue the kin line and bring new life into the family. The desire to nurture while expanding kin networks relaxes social norms surrounding single motherhood. For two women in this study, the loss of a first child also increased the wish to become a mother, and the loss of a girlfriend with whom a lesbian woman had begun to discuss co-parenting plans made her resolve to act in the present, because the future is not guaranteed.
Fran, thirty-six years old with a two-year-old, explained why she had paused to rethink what was important to her. Characteristic of women who suffered the loss of a loved one, Fran’s thoughts about single motherhood crystallized as she shifted her focus from the family member she had lost to the family she longed to have:
The big trigger for me was my dad’s death. That made me think about what’s important in my life. And I think there often is something that makes you say, “What do I care about?” And I thought, “ I think I really want to have kids.” And then in the back of my head the idea was more jelled at that point. But then T would think, “This is probably a really crazy idea, and I don’t know if this is realistic.”
A Jewish woman who would not marry outside her faith, Fran never clicked with any of the Jewish men she met, and saw dating a non-Jewish man as counter to her beliefs. When her father died, her desire to perpetuate her cultural heritage convinced her that it was better to create her own Jewish family and home than to search outside her faith for a possible husband. New ideas about how to expand kinship and keep her faith solidified with his death.