Shadows from the past: The mothering experience of women survivors of maternal suicide

Ronit D. Leichtentritt, Judy Leichtentritt, Michal Mahat Shamir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Summary: Raising children, while challenging in the best of times, can be more complicated for a woman who lost her own mother during her childhood/adolescent years. This study examines the long-term impact of maternal suicide as evident in the mothering experiences of 12 Israeli women. Findings: The participants’ descriptions reveal a constant Sisyphean struggle to move away from their legacy only to be pulled back—a fervent wish to be different from their mothers along with the simultaneous realization that they cannot escape their past. This continuing struggle is captured through four themes: (a) being a mother long before having children, (b) the past casting a pall over the present, (c) mothering as a means of fixing what is broken, and (d) the lack of a maternal model: an irrevocable absence. Applications: The results of this study are discussed from an emotional socialization perspective which points to the relevance of two theoretical perspectives: the modeling and the compensation views of emotional socialization in the participants’ mothering experiences. These views can help social workers both to understand and to attend to the distinctive difficulties of mothers who have survived the suicide of their own mothers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)548-577
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2016.


  • Social work
  • bereavement
  • grief and loss
  • parenting
  • qualitative research
  • suicide


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