Death, Grief, Love, Motherless Daughter

3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Mother

My mother died from ovarian cancer when I was a young child. I’m in my late thirties now and I’m still navigating this loss as I move through life. I’ve lived most of my life without my mother at this point but I still miss her. Here are 3 things I’ve learned since losing Mam.

1. Grief is not linear and is not soley expressed through tears.

Someone you love has been taken away from you and your heart has broken into pieces. It’s natural to grieve but we all grieve differently. Grief shows up in anger, sorrow, guilt, fear, and sometimes peace. It is unpredictable and at times exhausting.

I cried when my mother died, and I cried at her funeral when my school choir sang “Be Not Afraid.” I didn’t cry a whole lot in the immediate years that followed, at least not directly as a result of Mam’s death, but probably indirectly related to it. I certainly felt fear and anger and other emotions related directly to my loss. Then sadness hit me like a tonne of bricks one day when I was in my early twenties. A compassionate friend asked me about Mam and as I hadn’t spoken about her to anyone outside the family I broke down. It was a good release. The years have brought many stages of grieving. Mother’s Day is never easy. Shopping for my wedding dress without my mother has brought up intense feelings of loss. And sometimes it just hits me hard, on a regular day, yanking me out of my pleasant thoughts. A mother in a dressing room with her daughter and they’re trying on clothes together, admiring how the other looks. The mother telling the daughter how beautiful she is. Or a friend of mine, meeting her mother for lunch and I can’t even imagine what that would be like! I can’t even fathom the amazing joy of having lunch right now with Mam! And then I get that heaviness in my chest and my stomach feels bad. There’s no closure. My grieving stems from having loved so deeply. I have learned to tune into the emotions I’m feeling and to acknowledge the love, the pain and the loss.

2. There are no replacements.

Nobody can replace your mother. We love our mothers in our own individual ways. Our mothers care for us when we’re sick, guide us in life the best ways they can, listen to us, and love us unconditionally. For a mother her child is always her first priority. And we sense this. We feel it. We know it, even if she doesn’t say it.

My mother was beyond happy when I was born a healthy baby girl. I was told that she called me her little angel. She carried me in her womb for 9 months. By the time I was born we had that unbreakable bond and she knew me from that first second of my existence. There’s never going to be a replacement for that person who loved me, probably more than she loved herself. The joy in her eyes when she saw me, the warmth of her arms wrapped around me, the pain in her eyes when she had to say goodbye are all ways that I remember the deep love she had for me. Mam prepared lunches for me everyday to take to school, named muffins after me because they were my favorite and surprised me with the best doll she could find when I was a few years old. She repaired my soft toys when they tore, taught me to have manners and sit up straight, wiped my eyes when I cried and my nose when I was sick. Today I look for certain qualities in people. I look for a warmth, a radiance, a compassion and kindness that Mam had. I look for humor, a voice of sense and strength of character. These are traits that my mother had. I find some of them in others. But it’s never the same. There’ll never be another Mam. She’s irreplacable on so many levels.

A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.
– Cardinal Mermillod

3. There are other people who will love you and people for you to love.

Family members and friends will love you. They might not know exactly what your needs are or how to address them but it’s worth reaching out to them. People struggle with different things. Perhaps family members cannot love you, or be there for you and we may have to look around, let go, reach further than we might want to, to find the people who really love us, but there is someone out there to love you and there’s someone in need of your love.

I was blessed with the kindest most devoted father who gave my brother and me all the love and care we needed. My dad is a gem in my life. He calls me to hear my news and to share his. He worries when I’m not feeling good and is overjoyed when I’m happiest. He listens to my concerns and trusts me to make the right decisions. My dad has helped me so much in dealing with my loss, through caring for me and loving me unconditionally. I have the most wonderful fiancé who loves me to no end. And I’ve friends in my life who I know truly care about me. I’ve been blessed with a lovely family but it doesn’t mean that I don’t reach out to others. I’ve reconnected with old friends after years of distance. I’ve discovered things I have in common with others and opened up to new friendships. Having people to love is truly healing. I was a kindergarten teacher for ten years. I loved the children in my care and they showed me so much love in return. By spreading love we invite more love into our lives. Try volunteering or working in a school or a hospital. There are people everywhere in need of love. Our world is so big and yet so small now, in this age of technology. We can reach out to others across continents. Our mothers were the first to show us the true meaning of love. In honor of our mothers let’s spread that love wherever we can.

There is no death, daughter. People die only when we forget them,’ my mother explained shortly before she left me. ‘If you can remember me, I will be with you always.’

Isabel Allende

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96 thoughts on “3 Things I’ve Learned Since Losing My Mother

  1. Suzanne peterson says:

    Your stories have touched my Heart Deeply. I lost my Mother 14 years ago and if feels like yesterday. She was my best friend. My children were with her everyday and will never forget her. We talk about her daily and keep her traditions alive. She was the Glue that held us all together. No one will or can ever replace her. She had so much Love and kindness in her Heart to help everyone. A trait that I have made sure my children have learned well. To Love , be kind and help others .
    Much love
    Suzanne

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your comment Suzanne. I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m happy that your children got to spend so much time with her and that you can all keep her memory alive. It’s true that she will never be replaced. She sounds like a wonderful person. Carmel X

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  2. My children and I talk about my Mom all the time. Something funny will happen and one of them says “remember when Grandma did that and we would laugh even tho it hurt. My children often say “what would Gram say or think of me now?” I assure them she knows and is proud and still loves them. Judith Benedict Foresha

    Liked by 1 person

  3. cheryl says:

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful words. I, too lost my Mom to ovarian cancer. I also still get a bit jealous to see mothers and daughters shopping and having lunch together. I dont think that will ever go away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m sorry about your mom, Cheryl. Ovarian cancer is an awful disease. And yes, we will always feel like we’re missing out on these situations that so many take for granted like lunch with mom and so on. It’s not easy. Take care, Carmel X

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  4. treubiedoo says:

    I lost my Mom on April 30th and my Dad just 5 weeks later. My heart is so broken and the waves of grief just hit me.
    Thank you for posting this. I know they are still with me and I’m blessed with people who love me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Judi Allen says:

    I lost my Mom to breast cancer at the age of 4. I never got over the thoughts of other children having ” real mom’s” to do things and love them. I to looked everywhere for someone to love me. I to miss her, I to think of her when I see my Daughter -in-Law in dressing rooms, out in the park, or eating out with my 9, 5, and 2 year old granddaughters, often talking to her wishing she could see them. The hardest for me I think are all of the good normal life transitions the graduation,the becoming a woman, the birth of your children, their growth,

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Today is my bday & for some reason it’s one of the hardest days for me…. I guess it’s because my Mum is not here to celebrate with anymore. This will be the third one since she has passed & everyone feels forced now that she is no longer here! Thanks for this article, sometime’s I need reminding that other people have gone through this too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand why this day is one of the hardest for you. I imagine it must have been one of the best days of your mom’s life! Sending you hugs on your birthday, Amanda! Take care, Carmel X

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  7. CLARE MC ENROE says:

    Dear Carmel, thank you for your beautiful words about your Mother and Father. My mother passed away when I was 9 years old from breast cancer. My father followed five years later when I was 14. My world would never be the same after that. I didn’t start to grieve until my mid-twenties when I started to suffer form severe anxiety and panic attacks. I have worked through it the best I can but there are times even now, and I am 41, when I feel a profound sadness like a void in my life. Sometimes I feel I can’t relate to anyone and can feel very lonely. But what I am grateful for is that even though I only had my parents for a short time they were very loving parents and I think that is worth its weight in gold.
    Thank you
    Clare

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Clare for your nice message. That must have been so difficult for you to bear as a young child. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I understand why you feel such a profound sadness at times in your life still today. It is a blessing to have had very loving parents. I’m sure they are with you in spirit every day. Hugs, Carmel X

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Monica says:

    Days like today are the ones where I miss my mother the most, I miss her every day but some days are more profound than others. Such as today, I’m not feeling well and I just want someone to take care of me. I am 26 years old and my mother has been gone almost 4 years now and I yearn for more so now than ever. This is a wonderful piece to read and I wishfully, hope for a day that all of us motherless daughters can find peace within ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry that today is a tough one for you, Monica and I’m grateful that you had a chance to read my post. I find it helps me to connect with other women who have lost their mothers. It helps to share our stories and know that we aren’t alone. Take care of yourself, Carmel X

      Like

  9. Brenda says:

    My mom was killed by a drunk driver in 1977 when I was 18, three months after I graduated from high school. It’s still hard after all these years. My dad is still alive at age 86 (87 next month), although in poor health recently. He’s been our rock, our lighthouse if you will, but my siblings and I get the most strength from each other. I think we’re trying to prepare ourselves for his passing. I loved your article.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Brenda and I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. How awfully sad! I’m glad you still have your dad and your siblings. Dad’s can be such a blessing! Carmel X

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  10. Cathi P says:

    I too lost my mom to ovarian cancer, I was 12 and the youngest of 5. I know I grieved then but nothing like I do now. I am 45 now and have been struggling horribly with her loss. My father passed 11 years later but his death just did not have the same effect on me. I miss all the things I didn’t have a mom to experience my life with. I have always had strong women in my life but there is no love like that of a mom.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry for your loss, Cathi. I grieved more as a grown up for sure. And I agree with you that there is no love like that of a mom. Take care, Carmel X

      Like

  11. Trends Roulain says:

    Lost my Mom and baby sister in March and Dec of 2000. Still feels like yesterday. If something good or bad happens my first thought is still I need to call Mom and Sandy . Some days it still hurts so bad I can hardly take a breath.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Rhonda says:

    I am 35
    It will be 3 years on December 5th my mom passed she had cancer also
    then my dad passed 8 months later he also had cancer
    it was so hard to watch a strong woman become so weak and fragile I miss her terribly
    I got married last year on her birthday I wanted it to be special
    I am sorry for everyone’s loss
    Losing my mom was worse than losing my dad idk y
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments

    Liked by 2 people

  13. SP says:

    I can relate so much to this article because so many things are similar and true. I lost my mom to ovarian cancer too at 48. I was 17 and a junior in high school. Number one is so true because it can hit you out of no where when you see something that triggers a memory of her or something I will never have the opportunity to have. Thats always the hard part. I am now in my late 20’s and engaged this year to a wonderful man. Though it’s been an exciting time it’s very bittersweet that she’s not here physically but I know she’s with me everyday. Thank you for sharing this article as it touched home for me and that I know others are going through the same things. 💗

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry for your loss. Ovarian cancer is an awful disease. I’m sure your mom is with you every day and I’m happy you found a special someone to share your days with. Carmel X

      Like

  14. Sheila says:

    I lost my mom 4 years ago July 15th 2012 unexpectedly. I had talked to her on Friday and told her I would call her on Monday we had a busy weekend planned. She died Sunday evening. Oh how I wish I could hear her say SheShe one more time. I miss her more and more and like you when my friends are planning on a mother/daughter weekend or lunch plans I get so jealous.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Alice Goode says:

    I lost my mom to cancer 12/15/14! Now my mother in law lives with my husband and I. It’s so difficult and I feel jealous. About to leave the relationship. My husband loves me and his mom, She’s been here over a year. Difficult to cope. Pray for me!
    Alice G

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Thank you for sharing this. I too lost my Mom like so many of you before I was ready (are we every ready). I was 22 years old and in most respects an adult and my Mom was 55 years old. Yesterday was the 26th anniversary of her death. Somedays I’m okay, others I’m literally just going through the motions and saying what other expect. I’m okay, I feel fine, and I’m happy I just have a lot on my mind often come out of my mouth. When what I really want to say is I feel cheated and I hate when you complain about your elderly Mom who calls you everyday. If you only knew. I’m now a Mom too with three kids just like my Mom had. I hope they remember me and miss me as much as I miss my Mom when I someday leave this world. That is basically all we can ask.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment. I’m so sorry for your loss and pain. I understand what you mean when you say you feel cheated. I hear you! Through sharing our stories we build connections towards healing. Take care. Sending you hugs X

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  17. Sandy says:

    Thank you for writing this- I lost my mom when I was 14, so many years ago. It’s comforting to have ways to share that loss with others who know. Blessings to you all. – sandy

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Stephanie says:

    I lost my mother not to cancer, but she had diabetes and it caught up with her. She was my rock, and I feel so lost without her. Everyday it seems like. My children were young, but remember her. I ache so bad from loosing her. A few years later, I lost my cousin to addiction and he was my best friend. And now my dad has cancer x3. He was a stage 4 months and months ago. He won’t tell me the time frame they gave him, but I’m scared….

    Liked by 1 person

  19. VEROH says:

    i was at my late 20’s when I lost my mom 2 and half years ago , through Terror Attack in Nairobi Kenya on 21st September 2015. Ooh it seems like yesterday!…Life has never been the same again and will never!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Gail says:

    I’m so sorry for your lost and pain. I to know that pain deeply, for my mom passed away right in front of me, I begged her to wake up she didn’t 😦 . It’s the hardest saddest thing that has ever happened to me at the age of 20 and then I was put homeless. Still aches to this day, wishing my mom was still here. GOD BLESS YOU, I WILL KEEP YOU IN MY PRAYERS ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  21. It never gets any easier missing our Moms. I lost mine when I was a teenager. She’s been gone out of my physical life for 46 years yet I still feel close to me. Thank you for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I’m reading every one of your comments and I am so touched by your stories. Thank you all for reaching out. Through sharing our stories we build those connections towards healing. Hugs to all of you. Carmel X

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  23. Irma says:

    Touched me in a very deep and profound manner. My momma passed three years ago and I miss her each and every day. Thank you for expressing what do many of us feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Irma. Thank you for your comment. Yes, we will always miss our mothers. It’s not easy but through sharing our stories we build connections towards healing. Take care. Sending you hugs X

      Like

  24. Nancy says:

    I lost my mother in October of 1999, suffered a cerebral aneurysm in February of 2000, my father passed that September, and my 49 year old the following February. Emotionally I don’t think I have ever recovered from mom being gone. I wanted her to comfort me and be with me during the devastating events that took place after her death. Some days I was mad at her for leaving me with so much to deal with, other days I would have given my own life to spend a few minutes talking and laughing with her. My brother’s death affected me physically because I was so devastated by then. I miss them all terribly but it is still my mom I want the most. Bless all of you as you make your way through life without our mothers.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Tears started almost immediately. I’m sorry for your loss, Carmel. My mom died six years ago of ovarian cancer. Feels like yesterday, but also a million years ago. No one understands unless they have lost their mom. Thanks for your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much. I’m so sorry for your loss. We will always miss our mothers. It’s not easy but through sharing our stories we build connections towards healing. Take care. Sending you hugs X

      Like

  26. Aliz says:

    I read these comments and can’t help but cry. It’s only been 4months since I lost Mom and I just still can’t believe it. I can’t believe that she’s just not here. I talk to her every day and I look for signs of her around me. But the pain of her loss, and missing her unbearably make the daily functions so much harder. All I do is think about her, and since losing her, everything just stinks. I find no happiness anywhere.
    Thank you for this post. The only comfort I get is knowing the stories of others. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry for your loss! How are you doing Elizabeth? It’s not an easy road without our mothers but through sharing our stories we build connections towards healing. Take care. Sending you hugs X

      Like

  27. Rita Dey Pereira says:

    There isn’t a moment when I don’t miss my Mother….everything begins and ends with her.Some days I remember her and I feel strong and ready to face my day with confidence…but sometimes I feel lost.But one thing I am sure off is she is around me…watching over me ..and my loved ones.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Laura Rice says:

    My mother passed away 4 months ago from a massive stroke. She lived for 8 days after her stroke. I slept with her 6 nights out of the 8 in the hospital and was with her when she drew her final breath. The anguish of that week is in my mind at times and makes my heart ache. She was only 73, and had dementia for 2 years. You don’t realize how hard it will be until you lose a parent. Nothing prepares you for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your words, Laura. It is true, nothing can prepare us for the heartache and the pain and all of the other emotions which follow. How are you doing now? Sending you love and hugs.

      Like

  29. Catriona Collie says:

    I lost my mum in June of 2011 when I was 14. As I move on with my life I am held up by all those around me who love me and I love so dearly. I have the most wonderful family but nothing can ever fix the fact that I’m moving on in my life and growing up without my mum by my side. Nothing makes me more sad than the fact that I am missing out on knowing all the ways that I am my mothers daughter. Lots of love X

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Sheila says:

    My mother passed away 22 years ago on one floor of the hospital while on another floor, I gave birth to my son. Those life experiences were both heart wrenching and heart warming to experience on the same day.
    What I learned then was that I needed to reach out to seek support and love from a village of different people to help me find my way through not only the grief but the joy of a new child.
    Over the years I have tried and continue to offer my learned wisdom to others in the sorrowful position of being motherless. I give what I was given. I am Mum to 2. I am ‘Mama/Auntie’/counselor/teacher/but mostly friend to those who seek that connection.
    Thank you for the poignant article and the reminder of how individual grief is, but how similar it is as well. We ache. We live on. But we do it better with people to love and be loved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Sheila, for your comments. What a heart-wrenching experience for you but also miraculous in a way. I am so glad you have a village of supporters. Love is the only way. Blessings to you and your family.

      Like

  31. Ang says:

    I lost my mother 32 years ago, I was 17 my sisters (4 younger and 1 older) have never recovered, everything is shadowed in sadness, marriages, babies, happy times and of course sad times. Even reading, seeing , hearing other people talk about the time spent with their mothers brings a stab in my heart. I am now a grandmother, and thru out the happiness and joy this little guy has brought to my life, I have a ache inside that my mom (who loved babies) will never get to see him grow up, to brag to others about her grandbabies. My father passed away 4 years ago so grieving losing him but also mixed with emotions of losing my mom that I still don’t know how to deal with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is very hard, Ang. I am so glad you have your grandson and it is true that the ache inside for our mother never goes away. Though we can find happiness and love brings us there. All of the occasions you mentioned bring up so many feelings. I’m so sorry for your loss.

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  32. Thank-you for this post!….i lost my mom at the age of 3, now in my early thirties. I still miss her. I do cry every now and then but I know that am loved!. It was lonely on my wedding day when I stood still wishing she could have been around to tell be how precious I looked. When my first baby came along, I wished she would have been there to see him and to hold my hand through the labor pains. Every mother’s day is hard! , really hard! but I know God knows my pain and I can only find comfort in Him.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. MaryAnn G. says:

    I feel your loss. My mother passed away when I was 4 months old, leaving a 3 yo toddler. My older brothers and sisters became parents instantly. I remember Mother’s Day in school, making cards for my sister. And when I got married, I went by myself looking for a dress, wondering if she was watching me. And, as much as I love my mother-in-law, I have never been able to call her Mom, because she doesn’t fit this romantic image (in my head) of how a mother should be. I don’t think I can even come close. But I have been blessed. I have two beautiful grown daughters, and two beautiful granddaughters. And, I know now she is watching down on me and I’m sure she’s pretty proud of the mother I’ve become.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sorry that you lost your mom when you were such a young little one. How terribly sad! I’m glad you had siblings who took care of you. I understand how you feel in regards to your romantic images of how a mother should be. And I’m so happy that you have been blessed with a special family of your own. Take care. Hugs X

      Like

    • I was 3 and my little sister was 6months old. I have always felt like a mother to her. I had to as a big sister. We have a wonderful relationship, but it’s a kind of relationship that falls from sister to mom, to best friend. When I got married 9 years ago, I was finally able to say the word “mom” to my mother in law. It felt good to say that word and I love her for that. She let’s me be a kid even though am a grown girl. I hope and pray that we all will find comfort in the Lord💞

      Liked by 1 person

  34. Dede King says:

    My mother died when I was 16…I am now almost 65. I didn’t even begin to grieve for her til I was in my late 30’s. Her death I’ve finally realized has colored every other thing in my life…my relationships with my kids, my romantic relationships, my relationship with myself. ..they have all suffered trying to come to grips with the loss…There is light at the end of the tunnel. I no longer run from anyone “foolish enough to love me”, and finally in the 6th decade of my life I know I didn’t cause her death by not being good enough a daughter. I am not the only surviving casualty of her death…our family scattered with out her as the anchor. Her three daughters (myself includes) struggled with addictions, broken marriages, and troubled parent/child relationships some so broken we have been “shunned” If only we had known how important grieving was instead of running from it I believe our lives would have been so much better. and yes, I still miss her deeply.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dede, thank you for your comment. I am sorry for your loss. Yes, being allowed to grieve is so important, and having people around who can hold that space for you to grieve, especially at such a young age is significant. We will always miss our mothers. Take care of yourself. X

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  35. Pingback: 3 Things I Learned After The Death Of My Mother. - Full Creative Ideas

  36. Sharon says:

    I have never responded to anything like this and am 50 years old with children and grandchildren. I needed to read this today, I still have my mother and love her dearly, but after a quarrel over my daughter had decided not to contact her. Your beautiful words have made me realise how lucky I am to still have her in my life and will call her today. Thank you, thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sharon, for your beautiful comment! I hope that things are going good there for you today! I am so happy that my words could help. Enjoy the precious times you have with your momma! Your message warmed my heart ❤

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  37. Pingback: The Important Role My Dad Played in My Life Following My Mother’s Death. | Alovelywoman

  38. Diane Nelson says:

    Beautifully written tribute to your Mum, and what it’s really like going through such deep heart felt loss. Bless you for sharing. It has been nearly 10 years and I still miss my Mum! I don’t think that I shall ever get over her absence.

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  39. My mom died of colon cancer just before I turned two years. I don’t remember her, but love the photos I have of her. I’m told I look like her, so I hang onto that. The book that has helped me so much is “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman. It explains so much of why my personality is the way it is based on losing my mom at a young age. I HIGHLY recommend it! ❤

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    • Thank you Carolyn for your comment. I am so sorry for your loss at such a young age. I’m sure those photos are treasures to your heart. Yes, Hope’s book is wonderful. I have mentioned Hope and her books on several of my blogs on this site. I’m so glad that you found it helpful. X

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