My mom and I are similar in a lot of ways. I always felt like we understood each other because of that. We are both the middle children in our families. She understood the process person in me and could always relate to my procrastination. She understood my indecisiveness. Her and I trying to decide what we were going to eat for lunch together was pretty comical. She understood that I am often shy and reserved when I meet new people or am in a large group, not because I don’t care or want to be friends with people, but because that’s just who I am. She was the same way. We both appreciate people and friends who don’t give up on us. We appreciate the people who stick around and get to know the real us. The people who put in a little extra effort in the beginning, so that we get the chance to show them all that we have to offer.
She was always rooting for me and believing the best in me. I wrote in a post about a year ago that she was my soft place to land, and to me that is the best description of her. She was always there for me when life got hard, I got in trouble, or I was sick. She was a comforter and she brought an easiness to my life. One thing that I will never forget about my mom is that when I was in school, she would always let me take a “sick” day when I needed it. I didn’t even have to pretend to be sick; I could just explain to her why I really needed to stay home from school that day (whether it was being overwhelmed, problems with friends, I needed a break, etc.) and she would always let me have the day off. I always felt like she trusted me.
I remember missing her a lot when I went away to Idaho for college. I called her often to talk and ask questions, and it was also during the time that she got involved in Facebook, so I remember getting a lot of comments from her and writing funny things on her wall. She sent me packages with my favorite treats and always called to check in on me. I felt closer to her during that time, which is weird considering we were 1,176 miles apart. I think that it was during that time that I really started to recognize and appreciate all of the ways that she had always taken care of me. I remember when I came home I told her that the most important thing I had learned while away at college is that I still needed my mom.
My love for cooking comes from my mom (which comes from her mom.) She was a great cook and always made us the best dinners. My absolute favorite thing she would make was her homemade spaghetti. I requested it every chance I got, even when everyone else was sick of it. I remember her making me a hot breakfast every morning before school (and later, before seminary) my whole life. When my friends would come over for sleepovers she would make us individual pizzas and let us personalize them with whatever we wanted. She would make peanut butter popcorn and regular butter popcorn (because that’s what I liked) and puppy chow, and always try to make sure that everyone had a snack that they wanted. When she passed away, one of my first thoughts was that there are still some recipes of her that I don’t know how to make, and I was overwhelmed with sadness.
One of the most important things I learned from my mom is how to take care of my own family. She was a natural nurturer and always put her family first. She took care of us. She loved us. She showed us love and she always expressed her love in words. I never doubted her love for me or my family.
My little family and I moved in with my parents about six months before she passed away. My husband is going back to school, and they offered to let us stay with them during this transitional period. It has been such a blessing for us to be here. We were able to spend some precious time with her that I will never forget. My kids bonded with her in amazing ways. She was a big part of my daily life again, and I miss that so much.
The grief that I have experienced since losing her has been deep and difficult. This is not my first encounter with grief. I had some early experiences in my life where I was first introduced to grief’s unforgiving grasp. The grasp that wraps around you and stays with you forever. The kind of grasp that unwillingly bends and molds you into a new person, and never allows you to go back to who you once were. With the exception of my amazing dad, my mom was my main source of support during that time and in the years after. It was an experience that I didn’t share with many people, and as a result I didn’t have many people who were able to walk through it with me. I remember feeling very alone during that time, and at times I still feel alone when I feel a wave of grief wash over me from that experience. But even when I felt alone, I knew that my mom would always be there for me to talk to. She had experienced grief of her own during that time and I felt like in a small way she could understand. She was a huge blessing to me during that time in my life.
This experience of grief has been very different for me in regards to having people to share it with. My family and I have made an effort to share our experience with the people around us. We have shared our thoughts in many different ways on social media. We have talked openly about our pain. We have reached out and accepted service. We have felt support from countless people and been touched by the love of so many. My friends have been amazing, and I will be forever grateful for my family and the ways that they have blessed and supported me during this time. This level of transparency through our grief has been a huge blessing to me. But, the most difficult part of this grief is not having her here to help me through it. She has always been one of my main sources of comfort. It feels especially lonely without her here, even with all of the countless others who are.
Before this experience, I considered myself well acquainted with grief. Its ups and downs and inside outs. The different shapes it takes, and the tricks it plays. I understood that real grief is not something you can wish or will away, that you can’t skip over grief and hope it goes away. That the only way to get through grief is to wade right through the middle. To jump in and feel it. To let it wash over you and hold your breath until the suffocating moments of grief pass, and you are finally able to breathe again. Even with everything I thought I knew, this grief is different. This is grief and death in a way that I have never experienced before. It shocked me. My mom is gone. Sometimes when I say that I still don’t believe it. I still need her. It was unexpected and unfair. The week and moments leading up to her death were traumatic and crushing. It’s a whole new face of grief and I continue to be rocked by it.
Luckily, although I have never experienced this particular face of grief before, I have lived to see the other side of grief. The side that isn’t so raw and all consuming, the side that is bearable. I know that life somehow continues. That you learn to find happiness again and to navigate more smoothly through the pain. You learn to breathe in a new way that allows you to accept the pain as part of the new you, while appreciating the joy in your life more fully. I know that there will always be those moments when your grief unexpectedly sneaks up and knocks the air out of you again, but I also know that you will somehow regain your breath and keep moving forward, one step at a time.
Because of that, I know that I will continue to learn and grow because of this experience. I will have more empathy and understanding for others. I will know how to sit with others when they are struggling to find their breath in the midst of the waves of their grief.
I will be more present for the joyful moments in my life because of the sadness that will also be woven throughout them.
I know that I will see my mom again and that my joy after this life will far outweigh any pain that I feel now.
But for now, it’s just hard and I am holding my breath.