Photo: Emily Long
My mom passed away when I was ten, and I was devastated. Sixteen years later, I can look back and see that I learned some incredibly valuable lessons during that difficult time. I’m sharing my experience in the hope that it inspires others to realize that despite loss, anyone can go on to live a happy, fulfilled life. After all, that’s what our loved ones would want—they wouldn’t want us to be sad forever.
While I still often think of my mom, tears rarely come when she comes to mind. That’s because I’ve realized that while my mom isn’t here to hold my hand or talk on the phone with me anymore, mother love is still in my daily life.
This was a huge lesson for me—let me explain.
I’ve discovered that mother love can be expressed by anyone—not just my particular mom. Aunts, cousins, grandmas, cousins, neighbors, friends, and even dads and uncles can express mothering qualities such as kindness, patience, tenderness, and compassion. Strangers, too.
How about an example? One time when I missed my flight home while in college, a stranger saw me crying and offered me a hug and a cookie. I’ll never forget that tender moment, and how relieved I was to feel mother love through that stranger. It was awesome. I learned that it didn’t end when my mom wasn’t with me anymore. This idea freed me from feeling that I had lost access to all mother love, and instead opened me up to experiencing it through everyone. This was a big step in my journey out of grief.
As I noticed other people mothering me, grief has been replaced by gratitude. Through this process, mother love has grown to be a humongous influence in my life—not just from one person, but from so many people around me. It’s expansive—not limited to just one person.
When I started seeing the mothering going on all around me, I also found out that I could be part of it, too. I could mother others by bringing my landlord freshly-baked cookies, comforting a friend who’s going through a break-up, or even just asking a checkout lady how her day is going. Anyone, anywhere can love like a mother.
Losing my mom was really hard, but I realized that trials are a part of life. Even in the most challenging moments, I had a lingering feeling that I would be okay, that I would get through this and smile sincerely again.
Another step on my healing journey was the realization that grief doesn’t have to be permanent. While I still have occasional sad moments, I mostly feel at peace when my mom comes to mind. I credit that to the lessons I’ve learned about mother love and because of my relationship with God. Realizing that I am tucked up under God’s wing, completely loved and protected, makes me feel safe and secure during tough times.
While I would have never chosen to lose my mom, the experience prodded me to become a deeper spiritual thinker and appreciate other expressions of mother love besides hers. I’m so grateful to be free of the weight of grief, and for the opportunity to learn to see mother love all over the place.