It has been almost 15 years since I have seen my mother. I miss her soft hands. I miss her smile and her laughter. I miss looking out the window to see her gardening. I miss hearing her voice on the other end of the phone.
A brain tumor took her home to Heaven, and as much as I believe in Heaven, the realness of her absence is still felt.
When she died, there were intense feelings of grief combined with an internal question of how to navigate life without her. How do I begin to process and heal in my mid-20s, especially when the person I always processed hard things with is gone?
As I began to navigate life without her—newly married, working full-time, and enrolled in grad school—I often felt frozen in my grief. I had this lingering feeling of being lost, combined with a groundhog day mentality of just getting through the workday, studying, sleeping, and being a newlywed.
In my 20s, I felt like the woman no one knew what to do with.
I was the woman with the mom in Heaven. No one knew whether to talk about my mother or not talk about her for fear talking about her would make me upset.
The loss of my mother created an unspoken elephant in the room which is often the case with grief. Those first few years without her were hard and awkward.
I made many decisions that felt right for me during that time period as I navigated grief and changing family dynamics. I saw a therapist. I worked out. I read. I got into community.
Years later, I discovered in my grief and in the awkwardness, I had a chance to learn who I was. When handled in a healthy way, grief can birth something new. I am my mother’s daughter, and we are very much alike, but in my grief I realized my identity is in who God is calling me to be. Navigating the hard places without my mom revealed my strength and my reliance on God.
Grief also has a way of rebuilding you, because it allows you to see life through a different lens.
Sometimes it takes your pain and it takes your brokenness to get to the bottom of who you are. It takes grit. It takes tears. It takes humility to allow people in your pain, which can feel ruthlessly hard.
I discovered through family and friends who loved me unconditionally that I could navigate this loss with a new perspective. A real hope.
Hope in reaching for my identity in the loss and discovering who I was. I could reemerge as a woman who could see others’ pain, walk with them in their grief, do awkward life with them, and be someone who would just show up.
I could be a strong woman with a gentle soul. I could be assertive when I need to be and docile when I need to be. I could be quick to listen and save my wrath of anger for its appropriate spot. I could be a woman who is known to have a deep love and deep emotions for others while depending on God for her strength.
Fifteen years later, I do not sit in the intense emotions of grief.
But, I do miss my mother. I miss daily life with her the most—talking with her on the phone, sitting in the living room chatting, or planting flowers together. I miss that she never met my daughter or many of her other grandchildren.
And I believe there is a difference between naturally missing “your person” versus grief consuming you.
I know in the physical she is gone. But I know in the spiritual, she is cheering me from Heaven as if to say the greatest joy you can give me is to walk with Jesus to become who you were created to be.
Because that is what she was teaching me all along in my 26 years of being her daughter.