Our Biggest Sale of the Year is Here!🎄 ➔

Before my mother died but when she was very sick, I was dropping my son off at daycare.

When we arrived, there was another little boy who had just been dropped off by his mom. He couldn’t have been more than three years old.

And he was wailing.

“I want my mom!!!!! I want my mom to come back!!!!”

He was completely and totally inconsolable. His tears weren’t the feigned kind put on for a show, protesting the drop-off, the kind that dry up 10 seconds after you walk out the door. No, this child was genuinely distressed. He wanted his mom very, very badly.

I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more in tune with another person’s emotion.

Because at that time, I could already see what was coming.

My mom had terminal cancer, and like this little boy, I could imagine a world where my mom wasn’t coming back.

I could clearly see myself in this childsobbing for my own mother, wanting her to return to me, and feeling very small in a world that suddenly felt like it was going to swallow me up.

I understood this boy because, like him, on a primal level I knew the panic of needing someone who was vanishing before my eyes.

My mom has been gone for over three years now.

I’ve gone through a lot of firsts without her. I’ve survived a time that did not seem at all survivable.

I’ve had two more children. Children who will never know what the holiday season feels like with my mom in it.

They don’t know how the house used to smell with my mom cooking her turkey or preparing her special holiday crescent rolls with sausage. They’ve never had her holiday punch with the rainbow sherbet.

They haven’t ever opened a stocking stuffed to the brim with treasures from Grandma, or seen how she could host an enormous number of guests in a way that made it seem so easy and joyful. They don’t know how amazing she was at creating a sense of “home.”

Every holiday season, my mom would host a craft fair out of our house with her great friend and next-door neighbor.

For three days, the entire first floor of my childhood home was transformed into a cozy, holiday shop filled with crafts. The kitchen was set up with special treats and a delicious homemade punch.

My sister and I loved the craft fair. It was a staple of our childhood, quaint in a way you hardly see anymore.

It was pure magic for us. And it was entirely representative of my mother and her unique ability to make everyone feel welcome and at home.

When the holidays roll around I feel the absence of my mother acutely.

If you’ve lost a parent, I bet you do, too.

Sometimes, the absence feels like a dullness. Things that were once bright and exciting, like putting up the Christmas decorations, feel muffled. I can’t quite enjoy them the way I’d like to.

Other times, the pain of missing my mother feels so intense I can’t look straight at it. It’s like the sun in that way. I can look around it, but if I stared straight at it, I would injure myself beyond repair.

So I don’t quite look.

But I muddle through, the way we all do with our longings. The way you have to do when a person you love deeply isn’t there to fill their place at the holiday table.

For these past three years, it’s been a challenge to carry on with tradition. 

If a tradition is inextricably linked to a person who is gone, how can it ever feel right again?

For me, it hasn’t felt right. I don’t know if that changes. Perhaps it does, in time.

To me, the holidays were my mom. She wasn’t just a player in the holiday sceneshe created the magic that made the holidays feel like home.

My mother loved Christmas. She had a collection of Santas she kept on display year-round at her house. I keep this little Santa hanging on the wall by our front door year-round, too. It makes me happy. It reminds me of her.

I have a young family, like many of you do. I have kids who need to enjoy their holidays, and who will grow up with their own special memories; memories I will have a huge part in creating.

And so I try to enjoy myself, for them, and for me.

This year, we are doing something different for Thanksgiving. My dad and sister and I will be going with our families to my aunt’s house. There will be a whole house full of aunts and uncles and cousins, and I’m looking forward to it. After dinner at my aunt’s, we’re going to take a trip with cousins from the other side of the family up to North Conway.

This isn’t how we’ve spent the holiday in the past, but it feels right this year. It’s not tradition, yet. Perhaps it’s tradition in the making. It takes time to know.

My aunt has just become a new foster mother, and her young foster son will be spending his first holiday with our family. I don’t know what he’s been through, but I can guess that, like me, he will be feeling the acute pain of missing his mother this year.

There are a lot of people who know this feeling.

If you’re missing a special person this holiday season, please know this: 

It’s OK to feel dulled out. It’s OK to feel an ache. It’s OK to know that to look straight at the sun will be too much for you, and sometimes you just have to look away. You’ll look up again when you’re ready.

And when you’re ready, you can think about what kinds of traditions you want going forward. You can decide when the time is right to begin them.

And if you feel like that little boy at the daycare, crying for his mom–I understand you.

I am you.

A lot of us are.

This post originally appeared on A Mothership Down.

Losing a parent is a unique pain. Healing after the Loss of Your Mother is a heartfelt guide for those mourning the loss of their mother, as well as the loved ones helping them through their grief.

Recommendations in this post contain affiliate links. Her View From Home may receive a small commission if you choose to purchase.

You may also like: 

Did My Mom Know How Much I Loved Her?

What it’s Like to Love a Motherless Daughter

Losing Your Mom Will Change You in Ways You Never Imagined

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Liz Curtis Faria

Liz Curtis Faria is a social worker and mother to 3 young kids. Liz blogs about the joy and ridiculousness that is motherhood at A Mothership Down. You can also find her on Facebook

The Art of Showing Up

In: Cancer, Kids
Dad hugging young son

As a father of four boys, you may imagine that life is hectic from time to time for me.  While it truly is, in fact, quite crazy sometimes, it isn’t always because of the reasons you might think.  I have four boys, ages 11, 4, 3, and almost 2, and that certainly makes for an interesting daily living experience for my wife and me.  We do our best to remain patient and lean on God’s strength and peace to fill us on the days that seem overly daunting and occasionally even downright impossible, but we are human.  Therefore, we fail...

Keep Reading

No One Prepares You for When Your Husband Has Cancer

In: Baby, Cancer, Marriage
Family sitting by window

No one ever prepares you for the moment you hear your spouse has cancer.   More so, no one prepares for you to hear this when you have a 5-month-old at home. “Mom, they said the tumor is cancerous, and they need to enucleate his eye on Thursday,” I say quietly into the phone as I pump in a dirty bathroom stall at the eye hospital.   Whir. Whir. Whir. Whir. Gosh, I hate pumping.  Today is my first day being away from my daughter. My mom is watching her while I made the trip to the eye hospital with...

Keep Reading

l Will Never Stop Missing My Sister

In: Cancer, Grief, Loss
Woman in red shirt

It might be 16 years too late to properly depict the depressive senses that engulfed my whole being when I lost my only sister Aurora to colon cancer in 2006. Painful flashbacks continue to fill my everyday life at the most inopportune moments that  writing about it might somehow alleviate my grief. I remember getting that random phone call from her one sunny day in September 2006 and how guilt automatically hit me. It had been a while since I last saw her. “It’s positive,” she said. Backed with years of joking around and playing tricks on her since childhood,...

Keep Reading

Having Cancer at 34 Taught Me How to Live

In: Cancer
Husband and wife on boat, color photo

This picture came up in my Facebook memories today. It took my breath away for a moment, just like it has for nine years now. It was the last picture taken of me before my midwife found the lump and my life changed forever.  The first time I saw that photo, I realized I didn’t know that woman anymore. She was naive. Laying there in the sun without any inkling that a cancer was growing inside her. Look at her—unafraid and without anxiety. Less than 48 hours later, she would be gone, replaced by someone who was afraid of each...

Keep Reading

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

When You’re Barely Hanging On, It’s OK to Ask For Help

In: Cancer, Living, Motherhood
Worn mailbox, color photo

I’m a bundle full of fun. My list of fun things include being diagnosed with cancer at age 33, having the BRAC1 gene mutation, doing six months of oral chemo, having a hysterectomy at 34, my ovaries and tubes out at 34, enduring a double mastectomy, and a million scans and procedures under my belt, followed by five months of oral chemo. I was a stay-at-home mom during this time with a 7, 5, and 2-year-old.  Sometimes I feel like I experienced a whole lifetime in one short snapshot of a year.   At the beginning of my diagnosis, our mailbox...

Keep Reading

This is What Cancer Looks Like

In: Cancer, Motherhood
Mother lying on bed with toddler sprawled across her, color photo

While I was going through active treatment and recovering from procedures and surgeries, certain moments during the day triggered this thought in my head, This is what cancer looks like. I envisioned a still shot of that moment and that title above it. One of the first times I had this thought was when I was lying on the couch watching my daughter play. I was fatigued and my heart was racing, but I was still a mom needing to supervise my 2-year-old.  She came over and held my hand.  This is what cancer looks like. In the days following...

Keep Reading

Cancer is Not in Charge

In: Cancer, Living
Mother with bald head holding child, color photo

My entire life, I’ve felt much pride and comfort in being a person who was highly organized, a planner, someone who truly enjoys predictability. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, everything that encompassed my normal way of living was disrupted. And there was no way to fix it. This was not a good feeling—frankly, it sucked. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three young children. My first thoughts after my breast cancer diagnosis were how this was going to affect them. Would they even still have a mother in a year? These are terribly hard things to think about when you...

Keep Reading

But Dad, We Were Supposed To Have More Time

In: Cancer, Grief
Man smiling at camera

September 5, 2015 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the day I found out my dad had “it.” The word I expected but didn’t want to face.  Cancer.  Stage 4 in his lungs, bones, and spine. A week later we were told he had about six months left with us.  Six months.  A half of a year.  He was only 55. People nowadays can live to be over 100. How was it possible that he was only going to live half of a life?  They were going to be releasing him from the hospital so he...

Keep Reading