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Becoming a Mother While Grieving My Own

Written by O'Connor Professional Group
Published on May 17, 2023

People say that the pain of loss never really goes away, but just learn to live with it. Loss sits deep inside and leaks out at inopportune times, like a slowly dripping sink that fills up and eventually needs a place to go.

I think about my mom every Mother’s Day, but this year is slightly different.  This year, I’m anxiously waiting for the arrival of my first child.  It’s something we’ve been trying for and planning for, and like every moment of joy, it’s tinged with an air of sadness – how would I experience this time if she were here with me? 

When we told our families and loved ones, I couldn’t help but think how I wished I could tell her, could ask her questions, celebrate, share my anxiety, and plan for the future. How do we honor her with this new child and the love she shared for him before he was ever realized?

It is not so much in the moments of sadness or quietness that I think about her most often, but in the moments of joy: getting married, trips we would never take, and the thing she spoke most often about in her final days – watching her children have children of their own.

I was 28 when I lost my mother to cancer. It wasn’t an easy end, and the last month of her life was filled with hospice workers, caregivers, and an exhausting revolving door of well-meaning friends and acquaintances wanting to say goodbye.  I spent that time trying to shoulder as much of the responsibility of her care, not resent those that would try and take the precious time I had left, the guilt of feeling worn down and in need of a break, and grieving the smartest, most independent person I had ever met, and watching her become helpless to the disease that was infecting her brain. 

Almost five years later, I find it a little easier to remember her healthy, and I wish I could say that’s all I thought about, but my brain doesn’t always cooperate.  It’s natural to think about the hard times, the last moments, they stand out.  Sometimes all I want to do is hear her sing, but my mind pictures her sick instead.  So I think about activities and experiences we shared to draw up the image of her laughing. I honor her by doing activities we did just the two of us, and talk to my family about how she would react to news, or what she’d say in specific moments. 

I wish she could be here with me, that my son could feel her love and warmth. This Mothers Day I’ll think about her hugs, and her smile, and hope that the parts of her that live on in me are enough to share with this new child.

My experiences aren’t unique.  Loss, grief, joy, pain, they’re emotions felt every day. So managing them, taking the time for self-care, allowing yourself to cry when you need to cry is okay, but take a moment and think about the good times.  Laugh at funny memories and look forward to periods of joy for what they are.  I’ve wanted for so long to be a mother, and knowing I would have days where the grief of losing my own would feel like a weight on my chest that will never lift is part of that, but it won’t stop me. Create a safe space to grieve, and allow yourself to continue to grow from your experiences and use them to help others going through hard times.

Grief and loss can cripple us, but if it feels like a mountain you can’t get past, talk about it – with loved ones, a therapist, strangers, support groups – and be kind to yourself when the waves hold you down. The important thing to remember is that there are good times to come, and it’s not always easy, but as people, we continue to grow and experience our past in new ways every day.

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