The death of the mom I used to be

The other night, I sat criss-crossed apple-sauce on our hard-wood floor watching my daughter Isabelle as she practiced her math worksheets kneeling by the coffee table. With concentration and delight, she added and took away fingers or shapes to solve each problem. (I’m amazed by how much they teach in Kindergarten!) In the other corner Theo quietly snuck in some playtime with her dollhouse, delighted that big sister hadn’t caught him in the act…yet. 

I sat there in silence, soaking up this rare moment of pure contentment. 

Ease. Peace. The three of us, finally feeling…WHOLE. 

I started to cry because it’s taken me two years to feel any sense of contentment, peace, ease or wholeness as family after my husband Ian died.

In fact it’s been quite the opposite. 

The mere logistics of solo parenting after a loss present a myriad of challenges — it’s basically close to impossible if you don’t ask for help. And not only that, 99.9% of your mental and emotional capacity for anything (let alone parenting two kids by yourself) is CONSUMED by grief. 

For me, the grief not only prevented me from fully functioning as a newly single parent, but it also made me extremely bitter about my new family dynamic and resentful of my kids.

Let me explain…

The death of a partner often comes with the secondary losses of identity and purpose. Now, there are some widows who find new meaning by pouring their heart and souls into their children. 

I was not one of these widows.

I was a widow who felt TRAPPED by her kids. I felt totally suffocated by two human beings needing me — depending on me for survival. I mean, they already lost their father!!! I was the only one they had left!  And in every act of motherhood I felt like I was lacking or failing. 

I was ANGRY about dealing with my kids constant sibling rivalry, the never-ending cleanup and chaos, the night-time battles, and daily task of herding cats to get to school every morning. 

I was SAD about missing their father who was not around to experience their first lost tooth, their snuggles as we watch movies together, and their eyes widen with wonder as they live into the magic of the world around them. 

For me, it felt much SAFER to pour my heart and soul into something else — so I started moveTHRU. 

I felt guilty for wanting (and desperately needing) to spend time on this new purpose, as well as searching for my new identity, because it seemed like was abandoning my kids — even close family members questioned my motive. 

But I despised the mom I was becoming around them. 

Mean mommy
Angry mommy
Scary mommy

(No joke…I’ve been called them all.)

I missed light, fun-loving mommy. The one whose heart would melt with a small hand gently squeezing her back as she swooped them off the ground; the one whose gratitude for these precious human beings trumped the tantrums and tizzies; and the one whose EVERYTHING once was her family. 

A harsh realization (yet essential one) in my grief journey has been the loss of the mom I used to be. 

Unfortunately, she died with daddy. 

I didn’t understand this for a long time. And I resisted and denied it as the thoughts of I’m lacking, I’m screwing my kids up, and I’m not enough without my husband swirled through my head and unlocked the floodgates of guilt and shame.  

Two years later, I’ve accepted that the mom I knew and loved when she had her husband is now gone. I’m finally at peace with this reality. 

In order to get here it’s taken time (two years!) and space away from my children to embody my anger, release my sadness, and feel the full range of emotions involved in grieving the loss of the mom I used to be… in addition to Ian’s. I’ve had to explain my needs to friends and family members, asking them to trust me and in my journey, which luckily I received. I say this, because there is NO WAY I could have done this alone.  

I’ve had to trust myself. To know that deep down my decision to distance myself from my children was an act of love…

To heal my wounds.
To let go of mom I used to be.
To surrender to the new mother I was becoming.

I’m still figuring out this new mom — who she is and how she shows up for herself and her kids. And to a certain, extent I think I will always be. 

For now, I’m simply grateful that I finally feel content, peace, ease and WHOLE.

Just the three of us. 🙂 

A Mother’s Day to Remember

As we mentioned in our last community post on grief & loss, talking about death can be difficult. Sometimes friends or acquaintances don’t want to talk about a deceased loved one because they’re afraid of bringing up sad memories or causing more pain for the person grieving. What they don’t understand (and what we are here to clarify), is that the pain never really goes away — it just changes — and talking about our deceased loved ones keeps their memory alive!

Kathleen Place, who lost her mother when she was just 10-years old, dedicated this past Mother’s Day to writing the following post. She explained…

My mother loved to write about her journey with terminal illness in letters & her journal. When she knew that she was very sick, she wrote all five of her children letters that we could open later in life (like graduations and weddings) reminding us that she will always be with us. I decided to write my story on Mother’s Day, and it felt like I was writing to my mother. Dedicating time to remembering her and going through old photos albums was so special. I feel so lucky to be her daughter and even more lucky to have her as my guardian angel.

Kathleen shares the rest of her story with us below!

My mother passed away from a hard-fought battle with ovarian cancer in 1998 when she just was 41 years old. I was 10 years old at the time, so the biggest challenge for me was understanding how permanent loss was. I also found it extremely difficult to share my feelings. None of my friends had lost a parent and I did not want to be looked at differently — I just wanted to fit in. So instead of talking about what I was going through, I stayed silent and made it appear that I was doing better than I really was.

The challenges I have faced since my mothers passing have evolved over time. It took me years to be ok with and figure out how to communicate my emotions. For a long time, I thought if I shared my imperfections, people would feel sorry for me and look at me differently. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I realized I was only hurting myself by internalizing my emotions. I started to go to therapy, which was one of the single best decisions I have ever made. Over time, I was able to open up to friends & family, which started to create deeper and more meaningful relationships.

At the same time, I started to change the way I viewed working out. I used to be a long-distance runner and while it was a great workout, it was never something that I completely enjoyed. After realizing how much I liked building relationships, I wanted to incorporate that into other aspects of my life, including my workouts. I started to mix it up and began taking fitness classes like dance, spin and yoga classes. I was out of my comfort zone, but I LOVED it. I fell in love with the fact that you can get an amazing workout, do something fun and meet new people. It came into my life at exactly the right time and I am forever grateful for the fitness community.

Losing my mom at such a young age affects me in different ways, at different times up to this day! There are times when I would expect to be sad, but I am not. For example, on my wedding day I thought I was going to miss my mom so much, but instead of being sad, I felt her presence and love more than ever. On the other hand, there are times in everyday life that I find myself yearning for her. Like recently I went to a doctor’s appointment and I remember looking at the chair next to me thinking “wow I wish my mom was here”.

Grief is unpredictable and no matter how long it has been since a death it can and will still affect you. Lately, as I am getting closer to the age my mother passed, I have been thinking a lot about my mothers’ perspective and how hard it must have been for her. Her battle and ultimate death has made me appreciate everything that I have and has made me realize the importance of embracing life while we can. 


If you are reading this and have recently endured a loss, please know that we feel you. We share these stories to provide hope and inspiration through living examples — as each person who writes a story here has lived it … and has survived.