Anniversary, Death, Grief, Love, Motherless Daughter, Mothers and Daughters, sisterhood, Support groups

Twenty Nine Years On

March 2, 1988 my mother, Kathleen, died quietly in her bed as Dad sat watching over her. In bedrooms on either side of my parent’s room, my brother and I slept soundly, my aunt asleep in the bed next to mine. Just writing this, recalling the moment my mother took her last breath, has me choking back tears. I imagine my kind father, his heart tortured from years of watching my mother suffer and helping her however he could, realize that my mother has left us, forever.

Right now, this is the hardest thing for me. Knowing the loss my father suffered much too early in his married life. He didn’t deserve this blow. None of us did. Mam should have been allowed to live. She was one of the kindest, most thoughtful, nurturing and capable people I’ve ever had the chance to know. And I only knew her for eleven years.

Last August I attended the first ever Motherless Daughters Retreat with Hope Edelman and Claire Bidwell Smith whose books I have devoured and cherished. I had just finished reading Claire’s second book After This  when I decided to look her up on social media. The timing was immaculate. The first post of hers that I saw was in reference to the Ojai Motherless Daughters Retreat and I really wanted to go. It was to be held in August and I was getting married in September. Preparing for our wedding without my mother was proving challenging. I was missing Mam in a whole new way. The prospect of spending a weekend with Hope, Claire and a group of motherless daughters who lost their mothers early in life comforted me. I was terribly disappointed to learn that the retreat was booked to capacity, but within days of contacting Hope there was a cancellation and after several others on the cancellation list had been contacted I was offered the spot. I literally jumped out of my office chair with joy.

The weekend I spent in Ojai with twenty four beautiful, strong, vibrant, inspiring ladies was truly a gift. Twenty four of us, from diverse backgrounds, arrived from across the USA, Canada and Australia. We sat together and shared our deeply personal stories of mother loss. We nodded, cried, laughed, sighed. We understood each other’s pain. Our stories were different, but the same. Our mothers were taken from us way too soon and we continue to miss them every single day.

What a powerful and comforting experience for me to be in a space with twenty four women who understood my grief, why some days were so hard and others so good. Why, after so many years, we still long for the mother who loved and cared for us as nobody else can. We worked through things together. We held space for each other. We talked and we listened. The most valuable piece of this experience, for me personally, is the sisterhood I gained. I found my tribe in Ojai. We continue to connect online regularly and when we’re feeling anxious, down or confused about something we have a safe place to share our thoughts. We celebrate happy times, like weddings and birthdays, and we hold a special place in our hearts for each other.

When I was in Ojai I saw a beautiful grey purse that I thought might be a nice addition on my wedding day. It was a little pricey so I didn’t purchase it. But after I left I was sorry I didn’t get it. Not only was the purse perfect for my gown, but I could carry a little piece of Ojai around with me on my special day. I rang the store and ordered it over the phone. On September 24 when I got married I had my Ojai purse with me all day. This purse was a reminder that out there in the world was a community of ladies who understood the challenges and delights this important day would bring. Their messages, sent on the morning of our wedding, meant so much.

And so, on the anniversary of my mother’s passing-I’m typing this around the time that she left our world- I feel a strong sense of community now that I have my Ojai sisters. I’ll share with them that today is my mother’s anniversary. They’ll know exactly what that means.

Growing up I didn’t know anyone who lost their mother early in life. I met some very special ladies in Portland, Oregon through the Motherless Daughters group and I remain close to some of them. It’s life-changing to have these connections. It’s necessary for healing to occur. There are others who will hold us and love us and be there for us, but the connection between motherless daughters is a special one. The heaviness in our hearts is truly shared. At least that is my experience. I’ve achieved this in my writing because motherless daughters have reached out to me with their stories. We need to build more bridges and connect with each other. It’s important to weave these invisible nets of love. Today I will hold space for Mam’s beautiful memory. I’ll hold space for my dad and my brother and eleven year old me. And grown up me, well, I’ll be okay. I’m surrounded by love and I can feel it.

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Birthdays, Birthdays without my mother, Death, Family, Grief, Grief stories, In honor of my mother, Love, Motherless Daughter, Mothers and Daughters, My mother's birthday, Writing on Grief

Still My Mother’s Birthday

My mother was born on February 18th. She’s not alive anymore but that special date, February 18th is like a soft little hum in the back of my mind until the new year comes round and I anticipate it’s arrival in all of its painful glory.

I asked Mam once what her favorite number was and she told me it was 18. So I know one of her favorite things. I don’t know her favorite color although I suspect it may have been a light shade of purple: lavender perhaps? I don’t know what her favorite food was or her favorite drink. I never asked her if she had a favorite book or a favorite friend? She had so many friends and was such a sweet person that I don’t think she would have admitted to having a favorite, but I’d like to hear her responses. I like the number 18 too. It’s probably my favorite number although before Mam told me hers, my favorite number was 8.

I was born in January, Mam’s birthday is in February and my dad’s birthday is in March. Three consecutive months of family birthdays beginning with mine at the very start of each new year. And we’ve been without Mam now since I was 11 years old. Yes, this time of year is trying for me emotionally.

Mam died in March, just three days before my dad’s birthday, and then comes the hullabaloo of Mother’s Day which in Ireland, where I was born and raised, is celebrated a mere few weeks after the date she died.

Mam’s birthday and the anniversary of her death are quietly remembered by those who were closest to Mam. My dad and I call each other on those dates. But in the years since Mam died rarely does anybody else mention her to me on these sad but special occasions. It’s just a date to most people. Many forget. Others don’t want to cause upset. I know that family members call my dad on March 2nd. It’s a nice thing to do. It might not be an easy thing to do but it does help. Just to know that the person who meant the world to you is being thought of, that their death did not wipe out their memory, that your loss is recognized by those who love you.

Today as always, on Mam’s birthday, I’ll speak silently to her. I’ll wish her a happy birthday wherever she may be, and I’ll tell her I miss her and wish she hadn’t been taken from us so soon. This year I have a book written in her honor and it is ready to be sent out into the world when the time is right. I hope and pray that the time will soon be right. A LOVELY WOMAN is a story of mother loss. It is Mam’s story and my story, and it is a universal story of courage, family unity, grief and love.

Happy Birthday, Mam, wherever you are! You were born on this day many years ago and it is a special, wonderful, magical day. I’ll light a candle in your honor, take out some photos of us and sip a cup of hot tea. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

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“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

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Death, Grief, Love, Motherless Daughter, Mothers and Daughters

Mothers and Daughters

When a friend of mine posted this photograph of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher I could not take my eyes from it as my heart filled with awe, envy and love for these two women. Now, I’m not a Star Wars fan. I have only ever seen one of the films and I remember nothing about it. And I don’t watch many movies so I haven’t seen Debbie or Carrie in anything. I didn’t know either of them until social media went on fire following Carrie’s death. So the emotions I felt on seeing this beautiful image did not arise out of devotion to these actors or their film roles, but from a place deep inside myself where a little girl is longing to be held and have her hair stroked by her mother and to feel an ounce of what these ladies were feeling when this photograph was snapped.

The feelings that rushed over me on seeing this photograph came from a deep place. I love to watch mothers and daughters together, enjoying each other’s company, showing their affection towards each other, being supportive and laughing in tandem. I smile when mothers kindly offer advice to their grown children, even when that advice is waved away. I’ve written about my appreciation of the mother-daughter bond in my blog post The Beauty of Mothers. It truly is a unique and special bond.

I am in awe of this bond because my mother died when I was 11 years old. I have no experience of Mam from my adult perspective. As a grown woman I never got to sit down with her and ask her grown up things. There is so much I’d love to discuss with her now. For most of my life I’ve been without my mother. And isn’t our mother supposed to be with us always, guiding us along, protecting us on our journey, teaching us things like her recipe for drop scones that I’ve never been able to replicate? Holding my hand, hearing my words when nobody else quite understands because she’s my mother and she would always understand!

And why was my mother taken when so many others were allowed to keep theirs? At 11 years old I silently asked this question because I knew nobody else who was without their mother. Enter envy. Every motherless daughter I’ve connected with who lost their mother early in life feels this envy too. We want our mothers with us. There’s an empty hole in our hearts that cannot be filled since losing the person who brought us into this world.

I remember spending a lot of time in my friend’s house during secondary school in Ireland. My friend and her mother did not get on, but I loved both of them. My friend was fun, out-going, creative and wild. Her mother was younger than many of my other pal’s mothers and much more open to talking about things. She spoke candidly to my friend and I about alcohol, boyfriends, puberty and birth control. I enjoyed talking with her but my friend just wanted to avoid her mother. They fought like cats and dogs, banging doors and yelling at each other. I wanted to say to my friend “She’s your mother, please at least give her a chance,” and I did sometimes say things like that, but rarely did it work. My friend was a blossoming teenager, strong-willed and stubborn. She didn’t need any motherly advice. And yet she’d say to me, “I can’t imagine not having my mother.” She had sincere compassion for me.

“The relationship between parents and children, but especially between mothers and daughters, is tremendously powerful, scarcely to be comprehended in any rational way.”  Joyce Carol Oates

 

The above photograph moved me. I felt a sincere appreciation for this mother-daughter moment. Even if it was fleeting. I don’t know. But this precious captured moment is one that I and many other women who lost their moms early in life will never have. It brings joy to my heart to see it.

I since read that Debbie Reynolds wrote in her 2013 autobiography, Unsinkable:

“It’s not natural to outlive your child. This has always been my greatest fear. I don’t know if I could survive that. Carrie is my child and I love her with every ounce of strength I possess.”

It is likely that the death of her daughter led to Debbie Reynolds’ stroke as she sat at home making arrangements for Carrie’s funeral. It is likely that this woman could not imagine life without her daughter. I can believe that because I am certain of the love that exists between a mother and daughter. Not everyone is blessed to have this loving bond but many are.

A friend of mine blurted on hearing of Debbie’s death, “I need to call my mother more often!” What a gift it is to have your mother at the end of that phone line.

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Christmas Without My Mother, Death, Family, Gratitude, Grief, Love, Moments, Motherless Daughter, The Importance of Family

Celebrating Christmas Without Mam

In my life I’ve celebrated ten Christmases with my mother.The first couple I don’t recall. And the last two were very difficult. Mam was in hospital for my ninth Christmas. She wasn’t well enough to come home. Dad took my brother and I to visit her and we sat around the hospital bed thinking this was not how Christmas was supposed to be. For my tenth Christmas Mam was at home but both she and I were ill. In hindsight I’m certain that I was terribly anxious about the situation (Mam’s cancer) and my body was buckling under the stress. I spent all of Christmas (days of celebrations in Ireland) and my birthday, which is on January 3rd, in bed sick. Mammy returned to hospital on January 4th, and died at home with us on March 2nd, 1988, when I was eleven.

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Christmas 1983

The Christmases with Mam that I do remember are filled with happy memories. It was a time for close family to be together; playing with toys, reading books, going to mass, sitting by an open fire, preparing, sharing and eating delicious home cooked meals, drinking tea, sharing stories and watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory together. My small family consisted of Dad, Mam, my older brother and me. We all loved Christmas. The carol singing, the tree decorating, the lights, the cosy fire, the warmth of family, the good food and the joy of giving and receiving.

The Christmas when I was nine and Mam had to remain in hospital was confusing and sad. I understood for years that Mam was battling an illness. But that she couldn’t be home with us on the most special day of the year (it was that to me) was hard to take. My dad did his best to keep Christmas morning as normal as possible. I got my Cabbage Patch Kid beneath the tree, we visited Granny and my aunt in the morning and we went to mass. But of course it didn’t feel the same without Mam. Something was very wrong and life was showing us at an early age that we couldn’t always have what we wanted. Even when all we wanted was our mother home with us on Christmas Day.

After the hospital visit with Mam, my dad took us on a drive to a small lake. We stepped out of the car, wrapped up in our winter clothes and a beautiful swan floated gracefully before us on the water. For a few minutes at that lake all I could focus on was the beauty of the swan before me. I held my dad’s hand and stared. I remember that moment. There was beauty in it. My dad remembers it too.

The Christmases that followed Mam’s death were hard but they got easier. She was, and still is, always, missed. We kept some of the same Christmas rituals. We place the tree in the spot where Mam liked it in our living room. The majority of our Christmas decorations are a collection that Mam and Dad gathered together, some so old they are beginning to fall apart, several in as good a shape as they were twenty years ago; vintage and unique. We go to Christmas Eve mass as a family, though I get away with skipping Christmas Day mass now (staying in bed is more appealing!) We place gifts beneath the tree and open them as a family in front of Dad’s beautiful fire. My brother and I still hang our Christmas stockings on either side of the fireplace as was the case when Mam first got them for us, our names in red velvet lettering across the tops of each.

After Mam died we started going to my aunt’s house for dinner. Christmas Day became a different kind of day but it is still one that I love. If I were to list the reasons I love Christmas my list would include: time with family, messages from friends, decorated tree, warm fire, time for rest, delicious food, conversation, gift giving and receiving, Christmas songs & choirs, candles lighting, time to read and lots of hot tea. Time. Time to be still.

I credit my dad for the smooth transition. No doubt there was terrible sorrow and disbelief at losing the mother we loved so much, my dad losing his beloved wife. But Dad remained strong and he held us all up. He worked hard to create a nice memorial place for Mam, her grave colorful with freshly planted flowers and free of weeds. I never felt close to Mam at her grave. It never felt right that the cold earth separated her from us, though I can appreciate the beauty of the fresh flowers and the nice headstone where her name is engraved. We visit it every Christmas Eve after mass. Dad was always able and willing to talk about Mam to me. In my earlier days I didn’t talk about her too much because I didn’t want to upset anybody. Outside of our immediate family Mam wasn’t discussed often. But Dad spoke about her. She was and is, always remembered in our little family.

“…when people stop mentioning the dead person’s name to you, the silence can seem worse than the pain of hearing those familiar, beloved syllables.” Meghan O’Rourke

This Christmas I think I’ll light a candle in Mam’s honor. We did this on my wedding day last September and it was a beautiful thing, to have a light shining in her memory, with flower’s from my dad’s garden in a little jug (her jug), beside us as my husband and I said our vows.

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I think about the people who don’t like Christmas, who feel they have nothing to celebrate, who feel lost and lonely, hurt and afraid. Christmas can be a terribly hard time for people. I think back to my little self, a small nine year old, holding hands with my dad as we took in the beauty of the swan before us while my mother lay suffering in the hospital on Christmas day. I worry for my ten year old self, sick in bed on my mother’s last ever Christmas with us. My poor mother. I consider my father. My brother. The pain that so many go through, in different ways, at different times. I’m one of the fortunate ones. The light came through. Mam lives on inside of me. I write about her and it helps. Poetry and the written word speak volumes and I always find a quote that resonates. Let’s look for the beauty where we can. And if we cannot do it this Christmas, maybe another day.

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A Messy World, Being Kind, Gratitude, Grief, Love, Moments, Motherless Daughter, On Writing, Storytelling, Writing Memoir, Writing on Grief

Showing Myself Kindness

It’s a messy world out there. And I’m one of those deeply feeling people Glennon Doyle Melton is talking to when she says,

“You are not a mess. You are a feeling person in a messy world.”

These words have really helped me. And my new goal with this quote in mind, is to be the kindest person I can be…to myself.

I’m writing a memoir about losing my mother to ovarian cancer when I was 11 years old. In fact, I’ve written the book. I just have to edit it, again, for maybe the eighteenth time, because there are too many words in the book. At least, that’s what I think, and I’ve read that agents will not look at a first time author’s work if the word-count is too high. So I’m back editing my memoir again, and it’s painful. It’s painful because I have to reread all the heartbreaking things that happened in my childhood as a result of Mam getting cancer…

…The first time she told my brother and me that she needed to go into hospital to get an operation. The time I lay awake in bed crying into the night because I missed her. All those Mother’s Days when Mam was not around. The Christmas she couldn’t be with us at home because she was in hospital. The time she got stung by a wasp when she was already so sick and weak. The time I saw her in a taxi coming from the hospital and the happiness poured from every cell in my body because I didn’t expect to see her and yet there she was, heading home, to be with us. Gripping my dad in the hallway of our home as sympathizers lined up to tell us how sorry they were…

Every time I reread the words it breaks my heart. And so, I need to be kind to myself.

Writing this memoir has been cathartic for me because it has allowed me to feel, to cry and to release my love and pain into this story form. But it’s not easy to go back over the story day in and day out, year in and year out, while I reexamine and query agents and wait. It’s difficult for me to know what I should take out and what I should leave in. I want to leave it all in. But the word-count is dropping and I do feel like the memoir is improving.

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

And so, yesterday while I was meditating with Oprah and Deepak, I realized how tight my jaw was, and my neck. I noticed how good it felt to lie on my yoga bolster and breathe.

I breathed in and I let go.

I’m a newly wed and exhausted from all that the wedding entailed. The upcoming election has me exhausted. The injustices around the world have me exhausted. And my current work project is so close to my heart and so draining at times, that I decided I needed to find a way to connect with my deepest self and be gentle with that person. I considered ways to do this. And since I’m a writer I wrote down what came to me. Here it is:

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I will try to remember these questions throughout my day. And at night I will run through them in my mind before going to sleep. These questions ground me and remind me of how to be kind to myself. All of them are true to who I am. There is nurturing in all of them.

And I will keep telling my story. Mam’s story. Our story. Stories have a way of connecting all of us, reaching others, ignoring our differences and splitting our hearts wide open in this messy, messy world.

Meanwhile I will go through my list and ask myself “Did I…?”

I am not a mess. I am a feeling person, sharing my story.

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Anniversary, Death, Grief, Moments, Mother's Day, Motherless Daughter, Offering support to someone who has lost their mother

Five Ways to be Present for Someone Who Has Lost Their Mother

I lost my mother to ovarian cancer when I was 11 years old. I’m 39 now. I’ve lived more years without my mother than with her. And I’ve been through countless experiences without her by my side. When I was little people outside of my family didn’t speak to me about Mam. I’m sure they didn’t want to upset me, or themselves. They figured it was better to ignore the topic and move along. They didn’t know what to say. After so many years as a motherless daughter I’ve come to understand the ways in which we can be there for others who have lost. There are triggers that are upsetting to us, and there are ways in which a person can make a profound difference in our day. Recently somebody wrote to me and asked me how they could support a friend who had lost their mother. I responded immediately. I didn’t need to think about it because I’ve lived it.

1.Someone you know has lost their mother. There is nothing you or anybody can do to bring their mother back. What you can do is ask them how they are doing and be ready to listen. If your friend or loved one has recently lost their mother and isn’t ready to speak about it try again in a few days or a few weeks. It might take months for them to be ready but it makes a world of difference to know that there is someone who genuinely wants to be present for them. And when they are ready to talk give them your full attention, take their hand if you feel inclined, and let them talk or cry. You don’t need to say anything. Just hear them out. Sometimes we think that we need to offer people answers but we don’t. Being heard is the key here.

I’m not suggesting you need to be a therapist for this person, or that you should neglect your own life or your own self-care. In some cases a person might need encouragement to see a therapist. Often all we need is a quick release or just the knowing that we can talk to a close friend when we need to. Some women have never had the chance to talk about losing their mothers. One of the most special things you can do for them is encourage them to talk about their moms. Just watch as their eyes light up!

2.Be aware of what you are saying. Over the years I’ve been reminded time and again what I’m missing out on when I’m with friends and they are talking about going for pedicures with their mothers or taking vacation with their moms. It always sparks a little something, but it’s unavoidable really, because so many women still have their mothers and like to do things with them. Honestly, it brings me joy to witness the blessings of others, even when I feel that twinge of sadness for myself.

And when I’m in the company of strangers, people don’t know my circumstances. Maybe if people stopped assuming we all had mothers, that would be a start. Even my teachers in school would tell us “Bring this note home to your mothers!” and they knew my mother had died! They never seemed to think! When I was a teacher I made a very conscious decision to always say to my children “Give this to your mom or dad or whoever is taking care of you!” According to the children’s personal circumstances I changed how I spoke.

If somebody in your circle has lost their mother, it might not be the best thing to start up a conversation about the blessings of having a mother, in their company. That might sound obvious, but it has happened to me. In college I had two friends discuss the joys of having mothers who cared for them while I bit my lip and looked away. And I know I’m not the only one who has had this experience.

3.Pay attention to dates. That person’s mother had a birthday. When was it? What date did that person’s mother die? This is huge! Mam died on March 2nd. That date is ingrained in my brain. I go to bed the night before in anticipation of the day ahead and I wake up with thoughts of Mam, how she died, how little I was, how uncertain everything was and my mind is just spinning. Some women spend the day in bed, unwilling to get up and face the day because it’s too hard for them. Imagine the difference it would make to receive a text message or a kind phone call letting that person know that you are thinking of them. Send them a bunch of flowers. Flowers brighten everyone’s world. Perhaps ask what their mother’s favorite flowers were and send those.

The same goes for your friend’s mother’s birthday. What should be a celebration is now just a memory of past celebrations. Ask your friend if there is anything they would like to do on that date to help celebrate or remember their mother.

Mother’s Day is very tough. Please understand that while you might be celebrating your mother (and this is a wonderful thing) she is mourning hers. And if you are very close to that person, please don’t remain silent on the day, hoping nobody will remember. A motherless daughter never forgets those dates. Help her know that she is not alone.

4.Introduce her to other friends who have lost their mothers. This is another huge one! I wish I had known other motherless daughters growing up. I didn’t know any. I felt very alone in this. I felt different from everybody else. I was very fortunate to have a fantastic father and I got on very well with my older brother but if I had been introduced to another little girl like me it would have made a tremendous difference in my life.

Recently, through my author’s page  I heard from a lady of similar age to me, who lost her mother around the same time as I did and lived in the same town. I remember the girl though I didn’t know her at the time and had no idea that she was motherless too. When she reached out to me I wanted to do a time travel back into my past and throw my arms around that little girl. We could’ve been a team, the two of us, without our mothers but together, hand in hand.

It wasn’t until I moved to Portland, Oregon and discovered the Motherless Daughters group here, at the same time as I discovered Hope Edelman’s book, that I began to meet and form connections with other women who had lost their mothers. What a gift it has been!

5.Don’t compare having a bad relationship with your mother to someone whose mother has died. Certainly this is traumatic in its own way. I have friends who are estranged from their mothers and I listen to them speak about the rejection they felt growing up or the abuse they suffered. In some ways I feel that what they’ve been through may even be worse than what I went through because I had a very caring, devoted and nurturing mother. At the same time it’s not the same thing. One friend of mine would say “I may as well go with you to the Motherless Daughters group because all I do is fight with my mom. She may as well be dead!” This was very upsetting to hear. All I wanted was my mother and even though my friend wasn’t on good terms with hers she still had her at the other end of the phone line.

Everyone’s circumstances are different and some situations are so bad that the person’s mother is as good as dead to them. My point is acknowledging the differences. Death means gone forever and no opportunity whatsoever to change that, no chance of ever seeing that person in the flesh again and no possibility to alter the past.

We have the potential to lift others in times of sadness. Often we want to help but we don’t know how.

The round sky goes on minding its business.
Your absence is inconspicuous;
Nobody can tell what I lack.

Parliament Hill Fields –  by Sylvia Plath

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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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