Patricia J. English-Schneider is an Associate Professor at a small liberal arts college in Minnesota where she teaches courses in interpersonal communication, intercultural communication, organizational organization and performance. Her research interests include the intersections of performance studies and intercultural communication, autoethnography, and teaching as performance. Patricia recently published articles in Liminalities and Life Straight Up. Patricia lives with her husband, Kevin and their dog, Miley in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota.
English, P. (forthcoming). “Performing Adaptation: Hispanic Migrants Descriptions of Transitioning into a Rural Midwestern Community.” Journal of the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri.
English, P. and Voight, P. (Summer, 2020). “War, Memory and National Identity: Perspective Taking in Cambodia and Vietnam.” In Jeff Birkenstein and Irina Gendelman (Eds.), Designing, Teaching, Leading, Theorizing Out-of-the-Box Student Travel. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books (Rowman and Littlefield).
“The mother-daughter relationship is one of the most charged, complex and crucial relationships women will ever have” Helen Vozenilek, Loss of the Ground-Note Yeong (2005) describes rituals as standardized modes of behavior that provide relief from the sense of uncertainty that emerges after a traumatic loss. Clifford Geertz (1973) points out that rituals can reveal the tensions that exist between cultural sanctioned practices and the actual activities that individuals engage in when grieving the loss of a loved one. The public ritual of a funeral is an acceptable practice in the United States and, to me, always seemed to mark the beginning of the end of the publicly sanctioned grieving process. In actual practice, bereavement rituals go on privately as the grieving process extends long beyond the funeral. In order to cope with traumatic loss, individuals practice rituals. For me, the funeral was only the starting point of my ongoing journey with grief. This essay takes an autoethnographic approach to describe the experience of losing my mother 10 years ago. Specifically, I chronicle my mother’s slow death and the grieving process I experienced before, during and after she died. Instead of focusing on collective memories, I reflect on the specific memory of my mother’s death and the private rituals I created to cope with it. I describe my mother’s way of mothering me as sacred and embrace the quiet time during this pandemic to reflect and pay tribute to the single most influential person in my life.