Order Soon for Christmas Delivery!🎄 ➔

It’s a long winter afternoon, and I have nowhere to be. I bundle up and, despite the hassle of going anywhere with a toddler and a baby, we head out to the mall—it has a free children’s play area. Nothing fancy, but it does the trick.

I expect to see a bunch of other mothers, also trying to escape a bit of boredom. This is New England, and the winters are long.

I find my spot on the bench and try to get comfortable.

Immediately, my eyes fall on a woman about my age.

Walking alongside her is her own mother—the relationship is unmistakable. Her mother is pushing along the stroller, cooing at her grandson. A 3-year-old plods along beside them.

“I’m just going to run into Macy’s, I’ll be right back.”

“Go ahead, I’ll watch the kids.”

The woman walks off, alone, for a few minutes. She’ll be back soon, and anyway, her mother loves time with the grandkids. She’ll get a kick of watching the 3-year-old go up and down the tiny plastic slide.

After the playspace, maybe they’ll do a little more shopping and grab lunch at the food court. Mostly, they’ll talk.

It’s a common scene. Hardly notable. But it makes a lump rise up in my throat.

I used to do this sort of thing with my own mom before she got too sick.

The pain of raising my kids without my mother startles me, sometimes.

I’m surprised, not infrequently, that I can just be going about my day and then suddenly my loss hits me with a force that I’m not braced to handle. It can hit at any time, and nobody walks around expecting a body blow while they’re in line at the grocery store.

But it comes when it wants to, and that’s as true now, almost 4 years after her death, as it was the first year.

The blows are more spaced out, but oh do they come.

RELATED: To Motherless Daughters Dreading Mother’s Day

Raising kids without my mother is much, much harder than I thought.

It’s like driving without a GPS. You think you know the way, kind of, and then as you get deeper into the route you realize you may be veering off a bit, and there’s no way to check in with the person who could get you back on track the quickest.

It’s hard to go to the mall, or the playspace, or soccer, or anywhere really and see all of the small kids out with their grandmothers. You know your mom would be there, in a heartbeat. She would be beaming with pride at your kids. They’re her kids too, after all.

You see the connection these children and their grandmothers have, and you want that, more than anything, for your own mother and your own children.

My oldest child had it, for just over two years.

It wasn’t long enough.

Sometimes the loss is not an emotional blow, but a practical one: you see that your friends are able to run out and do a quick errand because Grandma is around to watch the kids for 20 minutes.

It’s hard not to feel jealous when people casually take their own mothers for granted. They rely on help you could only dream of having. They don’t totally understand how good they really have it.

I want to tell them, trust me, this is a luxury. You won’t always have this, so at least understand what it is you’ve got.

RELATED: Call Your Mom Today Because Tomorrow Isn’t Promised

And it’s hard not to envy the friends who can go to their own moms to ask what they themselves were like at age five or nine or 12—is that why their own daughter is acting this way, now? What can I expect, here?

Without the primary family historian it can be hard to get your bearings.

Your dad is great, but he doesn’t keep the family records. Not like this.

The details—the smallest things about family life—lived with your mom, and most of them died along with her, too. There are things that are simply too far back in your own childhood for you to be able to access, now.

It turns out those things matter to you a lot as you attempt to navigate raising your own young children. 

Was I a picky eater at two? Was I an emotional kid? Unreasonable? Did I whine a lot? Did we really have as much freedom as I felt like we did? How did you manage to keep our clothes all ironed? What was it like when Dad had work trips out of town—were those hard on you? They didn’t seem hard—but then again, I was only a kid. What did I know about what was going on?

You want to know so much that only your mom could tell you.

You want to know these things more—much more—now that you have kids of your own. You need them, in a way, to make sense of your current experiences, to be able to put your children into a larger, understandable, context.

The answers would help you, now. They would help a lot.

RELATED: Some of the Best Grandmas Live in Heaven

If your mom is still alive, ask her all the questions you can about your own childhood, and about hers. The family history becomes ever more precious when you don’t have access to it anymore.

The truth is, motherhood is confusing. Being an adult is hard. You didn’t know this as a kid. How could you?

And taking on the role of being a mother without your own mother there as a guide is, more often than I’d hoped, devastating in a day-to-day we all buck up and do this because we have no other choice type of way.

Sometimes, like when you’re sick yourself, you just want a hug. 

In these moments the family history you miss isn’t in the stories, it’s in the touch. The cellular-level memories of a cool hand on a fevered forehead.

It’s the touch you miss. It’s the stories you miss. It’s the trips to the mall. It’s knowing what she’s missing, and what your kids are missing, even as they don’t realize it.

A grandmother to cheer them on at soccer. Someone to step in and hold the baby so you can get a little rest. The person who could tell you what it was like when you were little so that you might better understand how to raise your own little ones.

A cool hand on a fevered brow.

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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.

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

When It Just Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas, Look for the Baby In the Manger

In: Faith, Grief
Nativity scene lit up

I don’t know about you, but each Christmas season I find myself trying to catch the “feeling.”  It seems like every year I hear myself say as December 25th looms around the corner, “It just doesn’t FEEL like Christmas.”  Part of that is living in Florida. I have never felt like I belonged here. I’ve always longed for cooler weather and the changing of seasons. Oh how my heart aches for a “white Christmas” that I fear I’ll never get.  I’ve heard others echo something similar. But it seems like we’ve become obsessed with chasing this evasive feeling that is...

Keep Reading

She Wore Caesars Woman and It Smelled Like Love

In: Grief, Grown Children
Woman with two children, color photo

They say the brain rewires itself to accommodate for losing one or more senses. A blind person develops great hearing, a deaf person great sight. Neither deaf nor blind, I have some loss of both. The result: a finely tuned sense of smell that intertwines with my memories and emotions. The aroma of cut grass transports me to summer. Cigarette smoke in the bathroom reminds me of my abusive grandfather. Loves Baby Soft powder scent embodies the year 1987. The pages of a book smell of escape. My grandmother’s perfume exudes love. Grandma Darleen shined like a beacon in an...

Keep Reading

It’s Another Christmas Without You

In: Grief, Loss
Woman hanging red ornament on tree

It’s that time of year. Everyone shines a little brighter, everything shimmers a little more. The cooler temps create a cozy atmosphere inside bringing family and friends together. For many, this time of year is both magical and lonely. Both bright and dim. Both cozy and uncomfortable. Grief has a way of sneaking up on you like that. It finds you where you are and sits with you.  RELATED: My Heart Is Broken This Christmas Without You This is the reality for those who have lost a loved one. There are many adjectives to describe loss. It affects everyone differently...

Keep Reading

Can You Grieve Someone You Never Knew?

In: Grief, Loss
Back of woman's head and braid looking at water

We love.  We lose.  We mourn.  Grief is a beautiful testament to someone we’ve loved, with whom we’ve built a relationship, and who holds a special place in our memories. But what about those we’ve never met? Is it possible to grieve someone we don’t know? The answer is yes.  In fact, this is more common than one would think. On a large scale, we need only look at celebrities and people of influence, and we will see this truth. How sad was the passing of Robin Williams? Here was a man who brought so much joy to the world....

Keep Reading

The Fragile Heart of Grief

In: Grief
Dandelion blowing in the wind

I started planting roses, and for a few years, it was this peaceful respite that I looked forward to each summer. Radiant petals would bloom, rising out of cold, lifeless soil bursting into an explosion of color. In early May, I started the cycle again and for weeks the roses were vibrant and rich with life. My dad died, and I realized I was no better at grief than I had been before. For two days we clung to the tiniest sliver of hope. We showed up, we stood vigil, we prayed, we cried. I watched my mom, my sisters,...

Keep Reading

When Mom Died, We Had Tea

In: Grief, Grown Children, Living
Table set as a tea party with framed picture of a woman, color photo

My mom was never, ever without a cup of Lipton’s tea. Like a dear friend, it held her hand, kept her warm, provided comfort. She boiled water in her navy-speckled kettle, then poured it into a cup and, completely ignoring the recommended four-minute steep instructions, immediately lifted it to her lips. It always mystified me how her mouth didn’t suffer third-degree burns. Mom’s penchant for thriftiness compelled her to use the same tea bag multiple times; only when it disintegrated and leaf particles floated to the surface did she accept defeat and reach for a fresh yellow packet. RELATED: Moments...

Keep Reading

My Mother Raised Me To Go On Without Her

In: Grief, Grown Children
Mother and grown daughter smiling in selfie

“The kids are spending the night at Grandma’s, and I’m eyeballs deep in Fritos while catching up on all my trash TV shows.” “I had to rush my son to urgent care, but thankfully my mom was able to stay with the three other kiddos while I took care of him.”  “I feel so lost when it comes to homeschooling; thankfully, my mom did it too, so she’s been an amazing guide to have.” To most people, these sentences might seem like wonderful, blessed bits of praise from a daughter about her mother, but to me, they’re like daggers straight...

Keep Reading

Dear Loss Mom, Grieve Your Baby In Heaven Without Guilt

In: Baby, Grief, Loss

My third baby was due on October 19, 2019. Instead, she was born into heaven on March 24, 2019. Not only do I grieve her more in October than in other months because of her due date, but I also grieve for so many other parents who have also lost their children.  RELATED: A Letter To My Mama From Your Baby In Heaven Pregnancy loss is such a strange journey to walk through. I’m years into it, and there are still days when the grief hits and the tears come and I can’t breathe. On other days, I am so...

Keep Reading

My Sister and I Return To Childhood To Grieve Our Mother

In: Grief
Two women, sitting on swings, color photo

“Grief is itself a medicine,” William Cowper. Everyone processes grief differently. The day after our mother’s death, my sister and I began our grief journey and took up swinging. Not that kind of swinging, Heaven forbid! No. What we chose instead was the weightless, transformational lightness of being that only a tried and true piece of playground equipment can supply.  That morning my sister and I waited rather anxiously for hospice (blessed hospice!) to pick up that wretched hospital bed. We wanted it gone, banished from our sight forever. When the truck carrying the bed and other supplies disappeared down...

Keep Reading

She Was Just a Dog…and So Much More

In: Grief, Living
Young woman in car with dog, same woman years later with dog, color photo

She was just a dog. One of my least favorite sayings is “it’s just a dog” when people comment on how much we love our pets—be it a dog, cat, lizard, chicken, hamster, etc. They’re not wrong . . . Harley was “just” a dog. One random spring morning I asked my mom if I could get a dog of my own. She was working and sick of the phone calls. She said I just had to ask dad. Well, we already had two dogs, so I didn’t have high hopes. Cue dad. He was just about to lie down to take...

Keep Reading