You sit there. With the utmost poise as everyone around you sobs seemingly uncontrollably. Staring. Hoping it’s a dream. And wishing you could crawl on that casket and signal them to lower you down with him. You know this is the last time everyone who means something to you is gathered in one spot, at least in the flesh.

Lower . . . Lower . . . Lower. And just like that, the love of your life is officially gone. 

You spend several weeks hosting as those who care about you stop by with meals. You nod as they talk carelessly, not knowing what to say. You forgive them. You open your front door and force a grin as they hand you a tater tot hotdish and then dart back to their car because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. You’re OK with this even if it is your fourth tater tot hotdish this week. And you sit in silence with those who truly have nothing to say but just want to be near you.

You appreciate them. You appreciate them all in such different ways.

However, hosting these people mostly distracts you from your own grief. You, for some reason, end up wanting to find ways to comfort them. It isn’t until your doorbell stops ringing, and the texts stop coming that your silence becomes sobs. When you adjust to your new normal.

It isn’t just the hard times you expect to be sad for. It’s that moment when you’re forced to make the decision to toss something as insignificant as their toothbrush. The thing is, it’s not insignificant. It’s the little things that pile up that mean everything. Or completing the last load of laundry that contains their dirty socks after a long day of work.

Those are the moments your heart feels the most empty.

You have no choice but to move forward (not on . . . not yet anyway) with your life. You have to find reasons to smile again. And laugh again. Perhaps your first year you’re proud of yourself for keeping it SO together for everyone, including yourself, but that second year hits, and you lose your appetite, you shut yourself out, and the sobs don’t stop coming.

Grief isn’t cut from a cookie cutter with perfect little corners. Grief comes in waves, and everyone lives with that burden differently. Sometimes the same song can comfort you in one moment and then a week later make your eyes leak. Your grief doesn’t become easier. Your heart still bears a hole in it, but your triggers become fewer. Once you’ve accepted what feels like utter defeat, you get back up. You surf the grief wave, and sometimes you cry but sometimes you LAUGH. You don’t let what broke you to your core, get you down.

You are a warrior, even when you feel weak.

You are my mom. The pain I felt when I lost my dad was brutal. But that pain was not the same as yours. Now that I am married, and I have found my soulmate, I can only imagine what it is like for you to lose yours. It is a pain that I admire your strength for. It is a pain I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. And it is a pain I think would break me to my core. You’re my hero, mom. I love you.

Jocelyn Rice

My name is Jocelyn Rice, and I am a fiercely loving stepmom, mom, and wife from North Dakota.