11 Lessons I’ve Learned About Grief Since My Mom Died

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My Grief Journey

“Tomorrow I am looking at 3 years without my mother. That is 1,095 days. How is this even possible?

It was only last week when I wanted to text her pictures of her grandkids first day of school without even skipping a beat. Staring down at the mom contact on my phone that still stores my most treasured messages from her, and realizing this number was long ago given to someone else.

How can it be this long since I have heard her voice, but it still feels like yesterday? It doesn’t even seem real yet that she is no longer here. When my mind reminds my heart of this daily, I still get knocked over in that wave of reality that she is gone. It’s not like the beginning, where the waves came every few minutes that I didn’t have time to gain my footing. At that time, I couldn’t even get it out of my mind before the next one came crashing into me. But at 3 years, it catches me when I least expect it. Like in the card aisle at Target, when I catch the Mom cards in my peripheral vision. And these waves have had the time to gain height and traction. It knocks me to my knees without a warning anymore.

mother and daughter smiling together in fancy dresses
Courtesy of Kristie Reitz

11 Grief Lessons

After 3 years, I have learned a variety of lessons. It’s all about trial and error. We don’t learn how to live without the people we love. It’s taken me a while to build the things that work (1,095 days to be exact). I hope this can help people just starting out on this journey.

1. Embrace Grief

Yes. She would want me to be happy, but grieving is essential to healing. Feeling all those yucky emotions are part of the process. I wasn’t disappointing her for being sad, because I needed to. Grief will always catch up to you, because it has to be felt.

2. Relationships Change

When tragedy hits, you know who is really there for you. Sometimes it’s the least expected ones.

3. Personal Change Is Inescapable

I have also changed. This one is inevitable. When you learn how life can change between heartbeats, you also learn to let go of the things that are trivial and no longer hold meaning.

4. Your Loved One Isn’t Fully Gone

She is with me. In the beginning, I would hate to hear that from others. ‘She is always with you.’ What does that even mean?? When everything was physical before that point, you can’t wrap your head around it. Yet. But in the past 3 years, I have seen so many signs from her that it’s undeniable. I just have this feeling she is closer than I can imagine.

5. Moving Forward Is Okay

I’m not leaving her behind by moving forward. In the first few months, I was paralyzed by the thought of trying to heal in my grief. I had to learn to put it in perspective. My mother had hopes and dreams for me. I know not one of them included being stuck in a state of devastation. I started thinking about how she would encourage me in her own voice. I can hear it more often now with practice. My mantra is each day I move forward and live a life that would make her smile… is one day closer I come to seeing her again. This gives me the determination to put one foot in front of the other, even on the worst days.

6. Seek Help When Needed

Reach out if you need to. There are wonderful groups and counselors that are ready to help. You can find comfort and solace in the grieving community. I lead one at church, and I absolutely can see the healing take place as the weeks go by.

7. Support Yourself

Be your own best friend. You are the only one who truly knows how this loss feels. Your relationship was unique. Do not compare to what others are feeling, because it wasn’t the same connection. Practice self care. Talk to yourself like you are talking to your best friend who is going through the same thing.

8. Healing Isn’t Linear

Having a bad day or week does not mean you are going backwards. In grief, you will hit minefields along the way. These go off when you least expect it, especially during holidays, birthdays and anniversaries. Mine are going off heavy this week. It is par for the course.

9. Don’t Get Hung Up On Words

People mean well. They want you to feel better, but when you are hurting and highly sensitive, sometimes words come off as being insincere. Try not to read too much into it. When people haven’t been in your situation yet, it is hard to find the best words.

10. Moderate Isolation Is Okay

It’s okay to isolate, but don’t isolate too much. I know it’s hard to relate to a world that just keeps turning, seeing people laughing and when small talk just feels exhausting. Just make sure to leave the door cracked open for your support system to check up on you.

11. Carry Them With You

Look at their pictures. Cook their recipes. Weave them in and out of your daily lives. Someone who is always in your mind and heart will always be with you. Always.”

black and white photo of grieving daughter staring out of car window
Courtesy of Kristie Reitz

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristie Reitz. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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