What Really Happens When You Lose Your Mother

I’ll never forget the day.  It was early April.  And it had begun to snow (which, in Minnesota, was a little late though not improbable).  I was tending to my children, being a mother to them, when my sister came to get me.  I remember running through the hospital corridor.  I needed to confirm the story.  Mom was gone.  We had lost her.  My dad was the only one in the room when it happened.


That word, lost, makes me chuckle.  I mean, it’s not as if we had simply misplaced her in the same way my youngest daughter misplaces her toys.   “Mom, can you find Draculaura’s shoes?”  I couldn’t just retrace my steps to find her.  She was gone.  Irretrievably gone.  I had become motherless.


My mother and I had a fierce relationship.  Perhaps it was because I was a lot like her.  Or perhaps it was because I also take after my father.  She was my teacher, my judge, my confidante, and my friend.  We tested each other and mirrored each other.  We made each other cry and laugh and wonder.


But now what was I going to do?  She was gone.


I had to learn how to navigate this world without my mother.  I had to try to be the best mother for my own children.  On my own.  Without my guidepost.  I had to trust that all the lessons she had taught me stuck with me.


Damn.  That’s a tall order.


When you lose a parent, you are thrown into this whole other world.  It doesn’t matter if they are elderly or have been sick a while or some bad accident happened, you lose your compass.  No matter how old you are, you still need the guiding hand and support of your parents.  And their death can leave you feeling adrift.  You need to be tender with yourself.  Grief can’t be hurried and it’s not one size fits most.  So please do not let anyone tell you how you need to grieve or for how long.  It’s a process.  And you need to let it happen.  I still find myself crying for my mom.  Longing for her touch.  Wishing for her sage advice.  I haven’t gotten over it, though I have absorbed it.  And I’m eternally grateful to my children for reminding me that I need to be there for them.  They are young yet…only 8 and nearly 10.  They need their mother in a different way from how I needed my mother.  If not for them, my grieving process would have been different.  I more than likely would have wallowed more.


My dad said something very profound to me one day while speaking of the loss of his wife, his partner, the love of his life.  He said that everyone deserves someone worthy of grief.  How deep is that?  Grief is hard.  It’s messy.  It’s complicated.  But to know that someone loved you enough to grieve your death?  C’mon.  That’s biblical.  We all deserve those types of relationships…whether with a spouse or significant other, a child, a sibling, a friend.  Anyone.


Probably the hardest thing about losing my mom, however, is not that I no longer have my go-to counselor.  It’s navigating life experiences without her.  We celebrated Mother’s Day shortly after her death.  Cue the tears.  And now there are birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays that we are celebrating without her.  Cue more tears.  Her presence is felt, though.  And her legacy lives on.  I feel it when I snuggle under one of the many quilts she pieced together.  Or when I pull out one of her handwritten recipes to feed my family.  Or when I hear her voice instructing me how to clean my house properly.


I might have lost my mother, but I will never lose her essence.  She lives on in me and the hearts of everyone who loved her.


My advice to you, should you find yourself in this unfamiliar territory, is be kind to yourself.  The loss of a parent is tough…no matter the relationship you had with them or how old either of you are.  It is tough.  So be kind to yourself.  Allow yourself to mourn what was and what you wish could be.  And say yes to new things.  Eventually, you’ll be able to breathe again.



Experiencing loss is something we all go through in life. What does your grieving process look like? Is it different now that you have kids, as Rebekah described in her post? Tell us in the comments below.