1. You will be overwhelmed with envy watching your friends grow with their mothers.
It will be a stiletto to the heart each time you notice one of your girlfriends snubbing Mom’s phone calls or declining a movie date. Seeing a mother and her twenty-something daughter getting pedicures will move you to jealous tears. You will want to shake the children you see at restaurants buried in technology, instead of asking Mom how she knew dad was “the one.” (I never got around to asking that one.)
2. Do not let your fear cripple potential love.
You will be tempted to only see the cracks in loving. Your walls are built up higher and stronger than those around you. The loss of your mom will root your fear of losing all things – remember how fierce and how tender your mother loved. Do not live under a cloud of this loss.
3. You can feel her in the tiniest things.
Whether it be a song, a butterfly that landed on your shoulder, a license plate with her initials, or a woman at the supermarket with her scent. It. Is. Her. Do not ever question it. It is not a coincidence. You are right. It is her.
4. Time does NOT heal all wounds.
That is something that people who have never lost their mothers say. What time does is replace grief with almost a useful kind of sadness. Almost like when you jam your finger and you have to learn to do everything with the other hand – because you couldn’t possibly get through an entire day if you didn’t. The pain does not lessen, child. You simply grow strong enough to bear it.
5. Writing about it is sometimes the only thing you can do.
Your words are weapons kept in a safe until you let them breathe freely. Your daughter is going to wonder how you got through this. The first entry will be the hardest. Write about what she loved, how she applied her lipstick, what she wore, what she looked like when she was happy. Write about things you wish you had done different. Your favorite vacation. Small moments. I can promise you it will unclog your skull. I can promise you your future self will thank you for it. I am begging you — Let your head breathe. It gave me great peace to fill pages upon pages, upon journals, upon blogs with grief. Write.
6. You will lose yourself defrosting chicken for the first time in your college apartment.
Your first jab at independence will leave you feeling like a velvet sofa on a wooden porch. You will sob on the kitchen floor with a mess of half raw – half cooked chicken and curse God for taking her. Let yourself go. Sit on the floor of the shower and cry until your insides are dry.
7. The big days will hurt.
The college graduations, the birthdays, the first boyfriends and new baby cousins. Holiday’s will seem singularly cruel. The first display of ‘Mother’s Day’ cards will always sting the strongest. Do not cry. Bite your tongue and remember her favorite ice-cream flavor and buy a card. Date it and hand write her a letter detailing some of the things she missed this year.
8. But so will the small days.
The days you’re riding the bus and an overwhelming cloud of black engulfs you for the entire day. The moments you cannot bring yourself to laugh with friends. The moments you know she would appreciate the sky right then. The random Tuesday’s you hear a song she loved or enjoy a meal you wish you could offer her a bite of. When the cards stop and the flowers die and everybody goes back to their worlds and you can’t — because yours has a chunk of it missing.
Some days will hurt for no reason.
9. Be hard on yourself.
Whenever you feel you are tempted towards self-pity or can’t remember your ring size or feel you are not living up to the person she taught you to be — be hard. Try to mirror her resilience, her courage, her grace. Remember you are now living your life for two. Remember her life made you strong. You are her soldier and she expects you to fight.
10. She will inhabit you.
After you stop wanting to call her. After you stop wanting to tell her about the childhood friend you ran into or to ask her how to de-frost chicken. After it’s been so long you are almost used to not having her around. You will slowly realize that she inhabits you. You will see her smile in the mirror. You were hear her laugh in your cackle and sadly, you will even inherit some of her “mom dance” moves. Her love will never leave you, darling, it can’t.
She is in your every step, your every smile, she’s in you, honey.
11. It will never not hurt.
Something will happen every day that you want to tell her – for the rest of your days. Whether you are 16 or 67, that mama shaped hole will always throb.
12. You need to choose joy.
Her life was a masterpiece and you are her legacy. Wear her smile and walk proudly in her light. Tell her stories, cook her recipes, plant her favorite flowers, and eat her favorite chocolate. Do something to sweeten every day in your beautiful mother’s memory. My momma was the type of woman who sung in the shower and danced in the kitchen, no matter how heavy her day way. She showed me how to find beauty in the ugliest of places, and taught me that everyday has something worth singing about.
The loss of your mother does not define you, but it does shape you. The days will always shine a little brighter because she lived, and the nights will always fall a little darker because she’s gone. If I can offer you only one piece of advice, it is to choose joy, every-time. And when strangers tell you that you are strong, you tell them that they haven’t met your mother.