They were exhausted, frustrated, angry young mothers, screaming together, in the middle of an empty school field. And it “felt SO GOOD.”
That’s how psychologist and The School of MOM (Mothering Oneself Mindfully) founder Sarah Harmon put it in her Facebook post sharing the Jan. 13 “primal scream” she organized in Boston. Twenty mothers showed up to go through several choruses of screams as a way of coping with anxiety and stress that’s built up since spring 2020 and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We screamed. We yelled (A LOT) of profanities. And then we laughed,” she posted on Facebook along with a group photo of the moms. “And that’s the beauty of allowing yourself to feel and express an emotion. You move through it to find a new one on the other side such as relief, peace and/or joy.”
This is the second year Harmon has held a COVID primal scream.
“The idea came together due to conversation after conversation from March 2020 about the struggles moms were facing in quarantine/the pandemic,” Harmon told Simplemost in an email. “So many emotions — grief and loss, isolation, anxiety, fear… and all of them connected to intense anger and growing rage.”
The second scream, in January 2022, came about “due to being back ‘in it’ this January,” Harmon said. “Moms were feeling depleted and defeated.”
The pandemic has hit young families with kids who are still too young to be vaccinated particularly hard. Mothers are struggling to juggle their jobs, their homes and their kids who get exposed or sick and have to quarantine. Sometimes daycares and schools close down with no child care backup to help them.
Thanks to the success and publicity that the Jan. 13 scream received, Harmon put together a “how to scream” guide. She led another on Jan. 27 in West Peabody, Massachusetts; in the photo below, she’s at that scream, holding her daughters’ trusty unicorn wands.
Emily Silver, a nurse practitioner and a mom of three girls, came to the Jan. 17 primal scream in Boston because, as she said in an email to Simplemost, she is “EXHAUSTED.”
Along with her 6- and 4-year-old girls, Silver just had a third baby girl. After two years of COVID isolation, homeschooling and running her own company, she said, “I am highly anxious, working too many hours and trying to hold our family together.”
“It felt really great to go be surrounded by other moms who feel the same way and be OUTSIDE in fresh air.”
The short talk that School of MOM’s Harmon led before the scream caused Silver to tear up a bit. The screaming at the 50-yard-line made her feel lighter and was incredibly releasing, she said.
Harmon connected her own emotional release in a conversation with one of her two daughters.
“We talked about how her class watched the segment and then tried screaming together to see how it felt,” Harmon commented on Facebook. “Her amazing teachers took the opportunity to teach about anger and lead the students to TUNE INTO THEIR BODIES!”
If the term “primal scream” or the concept of screaming together in unity sounds familiar to you, it might not just be COVID-related. Many colleges have a “primal scream” tradition where the night before finals weeks at a designated time, students simultaneously scream outside, inside, out their window, with food, and sometimes without clothes on. The idea is the same: a release of stress and communal bonding at a big event.
While Harmon told Simplemost she had never heard of the concept of a college primal scream before, she said she’d wished her college had them.
Might these young mothers, who possibly once screamed over exam anxiety, find a connection again during what has felt like two years of the worst finals week ever? Of course, if we moms had known what we know now, there might have been more appreciation back in college for the free dorm munchies and relative predictability of studying for finals.
Now we are screaming about a pandemic that seems like it may never end. No wonder the tradition lives!