Grief Is This Funny, Freaky Thing (A Mother’s Day Post For Those Who Have Lost Their Mom)

(I wrote this 2 years ago.  I still miss her.)

My mom has been gone four years now. Four years. Four years. I loved my mom. And now, even now, I can’t believe I’ll never see her again.

The first few days after she passed were a blur. We had just gotten home from years in Europe and hadn’t

The last photo I have of me and mom, before she got sick. I gave her the necklace she is wearing. She told me it was one of her most favorite gifts I ever gave her. I have it now.

even unpacked all our stuff yet. I didn’t have clothes for a funeral. None of us did. I remember holding it all together through the details, tearing up occasionally as emotion welled to the surface. But…I just didn’t have time to cry. I did what I had to do to get through. People needed me. And I was afraid to let it all go for fear of the force of what lay hidden within me.

The next few months were…weird. I kept waking up at 3am with a compulsion to clean house. I felt so much better when a friend told me she did the same thing after her daughter died. My grief was, at least in this circumstance, normal. Whatever that is. But still, somehow I needed at that time to know I was…normal. Because so much of my life did not feel normal.

Grief continued to rear its head unexpectedly as time marched on. Sometimes I would call dad’s answering machine, just to hear her voice. And I remember the first call after he changed it. Reading her handwriting on notes left around the house…looking at photos of all of us…fragrances that brought her to mind. All pushed something deep within me, something I was often afraid to say hello to for fear it would never leave.

As the years pass, I see how our family has this huge hole in it, one we still haven’t figured out how to navigate. I began to realize that all I had lost wasn’t in the past, but in the future also. My kids weren’t going to have a grandmother. Abby would have no memories of her. I wasn’t going to have a mom anymore. I was the mom. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays…all different. Lacking.

I live in her house… although I guess it is my house now.  I had a dream a while back where she looked like herself, when she was still healthy. She was wearing purple, just like she said she would do when she got old. She spoke to me. I realized I hadn’t heard her voice, the voice that lived with me every day of my life, in four years. It felt so familiar, like a part of my brain that had been asleep for a while, woke up. She said something to me I never heard her say in life, but needed desperately to hear. I tried so hard not to wake up, to stay there with her for a while. I couldn’t. She slipped away again.

Just the other day I looked out in the backyard and saw some stray roses blooming. Beautiful pink and red roses she planted with her own hands and loved. Just like my life that now blooms here also – she planted and loved that too. I wept. And wept. Then sobbed. So random. So not random.

I am too young to be motherless.

I am learning how grief is this funny, freaky thing. It has a life of its own. It will not be dictated to or controlled. It comes and goes when it chooses, yet never really seems to leave. Sometimes I think it is my friend, giving immense relief to the pressure of my inner world. Some days though, I am not sure. I can cooperate with it, letting it have its way when it shows up – or I can try to swallow it. Swallowing grief however, is a bitter pill… doing more damage than help. I am finding it is much healthier for me when it stops by for a visit, to sit with it a while . Maybe have coffee or tea together. Then, let it drift off again to wherever it goes when it isn’t front and center.

Doors to the past may close, never to be opened again. But they are often made of glass. I can still see what lies behind them, always in view, but out of reach.


(originally published 9/13/12)


Sometimes Mothers Get Crushed – A Very Non-Traditional, Somber and Almost Dark Mother’s Day Post

I was pulling up in our driveway one morning when I saw her. A large box turtle. Since we all enjoy the ‘wild kingdom’ vibe of our yard, I got out to take a photo of her to show the kids for later.  As I got close I noticed. The left corner of her shell had been crushed. Either Jeff or I had run over her on our way out in the darkness of morning. She was now dead.

To make matters worse, several almost-done, but still intact turtle eggs had spilled out.

It was an accident and accidents happen. Nature is cruel. Things die all the time and it is a part of life. I try to guard my heart with these truths whenever I’m faced with the reality of suffering and death – almost always unsuccessfully, as in this case. I was moved. And so sad. I took some time that morning to talk with God about what I’d seen and why I knew it was important for me to stop and pay attention.

I don’t know how turtles do motherhood. Because they are reptiles, I suspect they aren’t too attentive or affectionate. But this mother, because of events beyond her control, would not be there for her babies. She’d been crushed.

And from what I know of people, this happens to us all the time. Oh, the mother may not literally die, but because of an accident, because of events beyond her control, because of sin – either hers or the effects of someone else’s on her life – she’s had a weight land on her that was too heavy to bear. It left her wounded. Damaged. Unable to fully do what her babies needed her to do. And those babies had to learn to fend for themselves way too early, perpetuating the line of wounded mothers into the next generation.

Surely you’ve seen this. Probably experienced it. A mother… in a painful, loveless or soul-killing marriage. Broken in the separation from a destructive man. Supporting something very unhealthy, addictive or secret, and not knowing any alternative. Enduring a life burden that is too much for one person to hold. Carrying pain in verbal silence but screaming it within the quality of her relationships. Suffering from a crippling depression or physical struggle. Damaged by her mother, who was damaged also. Wearing soul wounds from abuse, words, disappointment, neglect, trauma and all the other things that were never meant to happen to us in Eden.

The children of mothers like this know. Because the weight of it has crushed them too.

We so rarely get the mother we want. We only get the mother we’ve got. Making peace with that is a major passage of life. It is a passage many never make.

Motherhood is etched on the hearts of most women, calling to us in a visceral way we cannot fully explain. Yet it is this dynamic, how our woundedness has the capacity to wound our children, that has the potential to make a day like today, one of sorrow and not joy. Of fear. Of regret – either for our mothers, or for our children.

My greatest motherhood fear is damaging my beloved children with my own damage. If there was ever a reason for me to cling for dear life to my Healer, to my Jesus, surely this is it.