What are the various emotions the mother must feel after her daughter's death that cause her inner conflict?

Expert Answers
Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What a horrible day this turns out to be for a loving mother who wants nothing more than to protect her daughter.

Her daughter, rather than just playing with her friends, asks her mother if she can join other children and march the streets of Birmingham "to make our country free."  What a fine thing, yet this mother knows what her daughter does not--that civil rights marches had the potential for trouble.  Specifically, she was afraid of fierce dogs "and clubs and hoses, guns and jails."  She knew these things "aren't good for a little child."

Instead, the mother suggests her daughter go to church and sing in the choir.  She carefully dresses her for the journey, unknowingly preparing her for burial:

"She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet."

This is how the young girl will always be remembered, as she does not return from church alive.  This is a tragic example of situational irony: what she thinks will be safe is not, and what she fears will be harmful would have been safe.

Her feelings afterward would necessarily have been complex.  She would have felt guilt as well as grief.  Undoubtedly she would also have been angry at a lot of things--herself, prejudice, an unknown bomber, society. Perhaps she would find motivation in her loss and march fearlessly for civil rights, as her daughter was prepared to do. 

As she frantically tears through the rubble and discovers that one white shoe, her heart would be breaking for both herself and her daughter.

mermaid1441 | Student

When your child dies, you first experience denial.  No, this hasn't happened. It can't be. Not my child.  Next, you are angry.  Why my child?  Why me?  You feel angry at God, feel that He is punishing you.  Next, you feel guilt, that your child died before you did, that he or she cannot fulfill his dreams, grow up and have a life, love, children, happiness,  -- all the things you wished for him or her.  You look at all the pictures of your child and relive the special memories.  You do not sleep or eat.  You do not go out and have fun, don't feel that you deserve to enjoy life.  You grieve. You cry and feel acute sorrow.  You appreciate the people you call, send cards or flowers or visit you.  You are angry at the people who do or say nothing.  You make a memorial in the house of your child and keep it in plain sight for a month or six weeks, at least.  You pray and talk to your child, who is in Heaven.  Eventually, you accept the death and slowly move back into a normal life, for you realize there are others depending on you.  But when you see a movie or hear a song that reminds you of the child, your grief comes back in full force, for many years.  As a result of the loss of your child, you appreciate more the people in your life.  You spoil your other children.  You love more deeply, because you know first-hand how fragile life is and how quickly someone may be taken from you. The loss will never be forgotten,  You carry it with you, and you carry your love for your child in your heart always and forever.