Wilson on Mothering Without a Mother


Wilson on Mothering Without a Mother

Actress Casey Wilson was a handful as a kid. Her proof: the dog-eared copy of Raising Your Spirited Child that her mom, Kathy, left out on the dining room table.

But Kathy could handle it; she was spirited herself. As the chair of the National Women’s Political Caucus, she traveled the country, rallying women to be involved in politics.


On top of being a career woman, Kathy was very involved in Casey’s life growing up. And her sharp wit and kindness, combined with her explosive outbursts of rage, were a huge influence on Casey’s characters on Saturday Night Live, Happy Endings, and Marry Me.

When Casey was 25, her mom died completely unexpectedly. Tune in to hear Casey’s long and messy road to grieving Kathy’s death—and how having a child of her own re-opened some of those wounds.

Casey with her mom

Casey with her mom

Casey with her son Max

Casey with her son Max

More Casey Wilson
You can catch Casey Wilson on One Mississippi with Tig Notaro. And The Hotwives of Orlando, which is a parody of the reality franchise The Real Housewives. Casey is actually so obsessed with The Real Housewives that she co-hosts a podcast all about it, called Bitch Sesh.

Also. Casey is one of my favorite physical comedians. I cannot get enough of watching this lady dance. Please enjoy:

Have YOU lost a parent?
How has that loss impacted your parenting? Or has it prevented you from becoming a parent? Tell us!

Our sponsors for this episode are Third Love, Tweed Wolf, Warby Parker, Olive & Cocoa, Bumby Box (code: LONGEST) and Fracture (mention LST at checkout). Use these links to access special deals for LST listeners! 

21 thoughts on “EPISODE #98: Casey Wilson on Mothering Without a Mother

  1. Casey – thank you so much for opening your heart to us to share your story. Thank you Hillary for creating a space to share this story. I lost my mom 8 years ago to a car accident. It was such a shock! Like you, I had a really meaningful last conversation with my mom the morning of the day she died: I was working at a camp in another state and called her to tell her about a dream I had of the two of us cooking our favorite meal together.

    Even as the years have passed the grief sneaks up on you, when you’re expecting and when you’re not. There’s all the future losses to contend with, future grief: my wedding day 2 years after losing my mom, having my babies without my mom being psychically present to become the amazing grandma she would have been. I grieve not being able to call her with silly little stories about my kiddos. I grieve the disappointment I feel when I try to share things with my mother-in-law and I’m not met with the love and care and reaction I would have expected from my mom. I miss her dearly.

  2. Such a great episode! Losing a parent right around becoming a parent is very hard. Even though you know your parents aren’t going to be around forever to lose them during that transition feels very lonely. I lost my dad to suicide 9 months before I became a mother. I actually found out I was pregnant after attending his funeral. Then, the day that my son was born my husband and I found out his dad abandoned his mom after 35 years of marriage. It was so upsetting and such a crazy time. It was almost like the universe was telling me, “you don’t need anyone but your husband and baby”. It was a huge learning experience about how things are not always as they seem. What I thought I wanted and needed was not possible to have, and actually not what really mattered in life.
    Thanks again for airing stories like this. Death and loss are hard to cope with and should be talked about more often.

  3. Such an important and touching episode. And so meaningful to read these comments as well. My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly on Valentine’s Day morning this year when I was 38 weeks pregnant with her third grandchild. I had spoken with her just the night before about baby names, and I felt so much resonance with Casey’s on story of speaking with her mother the night before she died, and the feelings of unease that night, followed by the shocking, devastating news of her death. We named our son the name that my mother suggested in the last words of our last conversation together.

    In experiencing life and death so close together – to process losing life while welcoming life into this world – to mother while being unmothered – I realized how poorly we talk about both birth and death in our society. Our deeply personal and yet universal these experiences are. It’s why Casey’s story is hitting home to so many of us who have been through the loss of a mother. I’ve been writing a blog since becoming a mother in 2009 – and it’s completed changed in nature since my mother’s death as I find it so important to give voice to the challenging, hard, scary, intense realities of grief in the ways that I gave voice to my experiences with pregnancy, birth and postpartum life. I’m struck by how much comfort I find not only in sharing my experience but that others find in reading it. Thank you for sharing with us Casey. And Heather, for giving her a platform.

  4. I’m a fan of Happy Endings and enjoy everything I see Casey in; this episode was no exception. I didn’t expect to come here to comment, but I was listening to the podcast as I was driving home today and the strangest thing happened.

    Casey had just mentioned the animals she and her friends say are their moms as I was driving into my driveway. She kept talking, I turned off the car and grabbed my phone to keep listening as I unloaded my camping gear out of the car. Just as I got to the front door, two yellow butterflies swooped into my yard, flew around for a few seconds, and then flew away. I live in Melbourne, Australia! I don’t tend to believe in that sort of thing but I thought it was too much of a coincidence not to mention.

    Love the podcast, Hillary!

  5. The only thing wrong with this episode is it wasn’t longer. I relate to so many things Casey said. Getting a baby nurse — that is the best. My mom died when I was 5, so I have no way or knowing how a mother/child relationship should be. With two of my own, I am just winging it. Fingers crossed. My husband saves for college and I save for their future therapy.

  6. As a mother I have reflected on if I am fufuiling my vision for my kiddos. I have a father who doesn’t talk to me for his own personal hang ups. Over the summer his mother in her 80’s came up north from Florida. I was prepared for her continual excuses on why my father didn’t come, again. I am working on letting go of my hope that my dead beat dad will show up in my life. A couple days ago his siblings called me to let me know he had a heart attack and will be having a stent put in. I had to say I don’t want to be in the know. I have mixed feeling because I care about people.

    I also have a mother who has too many issues to parent or be friends. I have no one to have as a model like Casey did but it is magical how you know in your heart how to care for your kids but the emptiness hurts.

  7. Thank you for this episode! My father died the week before the birth of my second son. I relate to Casey’s experience on so many levels, but there were 3 parts of her story that really struck me.

    When she told the story of feeling like she was being taken care of by her mom when she got the part in a film that she’d missed because of her mother’s sudden death I could totally relate. The week between my dad’s death and his funeral I told my mom and brother several times how much I was dreading his service. That we were with him when he died and I just couldn’t bare anymore of this nightmare. In the middle of the night before his funeral I went into labor and could not go. I gave birth to his last grandchild instead. I have always believed he, as was his way, protected me that day. Like he and my son, who never met him, were in that moment in cahoots and took care of me together.

    She talked about the night nurse who told her not to cry while breastfeeding. When I was breastfeeding my son I had the same experience. Everytime I let down I also let it out. It was completely beyond my control, but my poor son never had an experience of looking up at his mom without tears in her eyes. Although my husband and loved ones have told me time and time again that there was no impact on my son I have always had the doubt that it did. He has learning differences and, well, I’ll always wonder.

    Casey also talked about missing her cheerleader with her mom gone. I remember getting a promotion at work a year or two after my dad died. Both my parents are big fans of mine, but when it came to my career my dad was above all others. He’d lose his mind with pride over me. I remember after that promotion just feeling hollow. Like I could hear him in my head, but I missed having the real thing so deeply. It felt like I’d thrown a party and nobody showed up.

    Thank you again. It is so heartening to hear stories of other people who have experienced this. It helps the grief feel more survivable.

  8. This hit home. I am currently considering becoming a mother. I’m terrified and hopefull. My mothers mother died of breast cancer when she was 8 years old. My mother was raised by an ill equipped father in the 50’s . He loved his daughters but rarely showed it. My mother struggled a lot with her mothers absence throughout her life and I imagine especially during motherhood. I know one of her greatest fears was to die young, like her mother, and for her children not to remember her. She was diagnosed with colon cancer when I was 15 my brother 11. We had 2 brutal years were she underwent treatment suffered complications, darkened deaths doorstep and stepped back into life. She had 10 years remission befor passing away. I was lucky I have strong memories of my mother, she saw me enter adulthood. But now as I consider motherhood with out my mother and the history of maternal mortality behind me I wonder is this the right choice, two wome taken by cancer, should I dare to have children, if I got pregnant now I would be the same age my mother was when she had me. Does history repeat?

  9. Oh man, I wish I had heard this podcast during my first year as a parent. I lost my mom to breast cancer when I was 18. She was fierce and kind, and – as Casey mentions – my biggest cheerleader. When I became a mom, I strugged with my highly sensitive and super challenging new baby and I felt terribly alone. What hurt even more, was that my mom was amazing with kids and I know she wouldn’t have been fazed by my daughter’s incessant crying as a newborn. All around me, friends had more mellow babies and still needed the support of their moms (justifiably so!). But, I felt so angry, so alone, so betrayed by my circumstances. I struggled for more than a year with this returned grief and likely a bit of PPD, too.

    No one prepares you for grieving the loss of a mother, again, when you become a mother. Just as new moms connect with their mothers on a whole new level, we motherless moms grieve the loss of our moms in a whole new way.

    I’ve since had my second baby (a blissfully mellow little dude), and I even lost my dad to a longterm illness when my second was 7 months old. This loss, while incredibly painful (especially coming to terms with being completely parentless now), didn’t affect me the same way as the re-grief did with my mom. This time, I was already a mom, I had already conquered ‘motherless’ parenting with my first baby. It wasn’t the avalanche of emotions that it was with my first.

    Thank you for speaking out about this undersupported element of new motherhood.

  10. This was a beautiful episode – a very touching interview. I hesitate to mention anything negative, but I felt really uneasy listening to the advertisements during this one. The ads featured you speaking with your mom on the phone. To me, it felt insensitive given the topic of the episode.
    Other than that, I do love your podcast and have recommended it to many people.

    1. Hi Martie,
      Thanks so much for listening. We appreciate your feedback about the advertisements! This was something other listeners pointed out as well. We’ll definitely consider this feedback when thinking about our ads on future episodes.
      Thanks again — Abigail, LST producer

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