Our family photos from my early childhood, the time before my mom died, were stored in a tall, forest green metal file cabinet that was old even when I was young. I loved how its leaden drawers closed with a gentle, resounding “thump.” As I grew up, sometimes when I was home alone or at least no adults were around, I’d crouch before it, bracing my lower body to tug open the second from bottom drawer. I’d breathe in its comforting musty smell and carefully peruse the bright yellow Kodak envelopes that witnessed to our family life from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. These clandestine forays barely scratched the surface of a search that continues to this day. My dad’s subsequent remarriage, a move, and the arrival of a new baby all contributed to the papering over of grief. I’ve been uncovering it for most of my adult life.
Until recently I would never have mentioned early mother loss in a bio at all, much less in the first paragraph. Yet my mom’s early death shaped my entire life. She died of breast cancer at age 37 when I was seven. Children are often referred to as “the forgotten mourners.” I want my writing to change that by raising awareness of childhood grief’s long arc, especially for adults who grew up without the opportunity to fully mourn an early loss. Fortunately, at any age it’s incredibly healing to tell the story, reflect on the impact and remember the person who died, so I’ve created a five-day e-course called “Ripples of Grief: Writing Prompts to Tell about Childhood Loss.” It is free when you subscribe to my newsletter for occasional updates on my mother loss memoir and related news. I love to hear from people on this topic (or any other), so please reach out via my contact page if you have any feedback or just want to share your story.
Writing has been my way to explore all of life’s moments and passages as an adult grieving child, as a parent, and as a person who asks a lot of questions. Spirituality matters a great deal to me and has been a focus of my writing. For a long time it was filtered through the Catholic faith of my origins, until something shifted a few years ago. As I gradually heard my own voice, it called me to a more inclusive, grounded form of practice outside any church. Childbirth in particular was powerfully transformative for me, in contrast to the way it has been portrayed, and I wrote to understand its significance.
A love of books, first nurtured by my mom, led me to study English in college. After graduating from Xavier University, I earned a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University, then returned to Cincinnati to work as a communication consultant for a large human resources firm. Joe and I married and with the birth of our first child a year later, at-home motherhood became my primary work for nearly 20 years. Nurturing my children softened many of my mother loss wounds. I also found mothering to be rewarding as a springboard for varied activities and relationships that included homeschooling, volunteering with swim teams and theater troupes, parish ministries, teaching childbirth classes and accompanying women at birth as a doula.
I love the village where I live that’s actually a first-ring suburb of Cincinnati, where we’re surrounded by mature trees and green space but also able to drive downtown in 20 minutes. Now that our three children are grown, my diverse interests include serving on our village council, participating in citizen activism, studying Healing Touch, and volunteering at a children’s grief center and a food pantry. I enjoy playing the piano, gardening, hiking, and travel with my husband of almost 27 years.
Peg Conway writes to explore, heal, and advocate. Naturally inquisitive and reflective (with plenty of opinions), she is presently writing a memoir of childhood mother loss and is the author of an e-book series called Embody the Sacred in Birth. Her work has appeared in America and US Catholic magazines, including a department piece that received Honorable Mention from the Associated Church Press, and online at Energy magazine, Feminism and Religion, and Christian Feminism Today. She earned a master’s from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and a B.A. from Xavier University. Besides writing, she serves as a local elected official, is studying Healing Touch, and volunteers at a children’s grief center.