Q&A: Understanding Mother Loss

Mother loss


My Understanding Mother Loss 6-week live online program starts March 4th! Get the details on the course here. Below I’ve added my responses to some of the questions sent in ahead of my recent live call on mother loss.

Question: I would love to know how to enjoy life moving on and not feeling guilty for living. I struggle with that big time.

Answer: My answer to this question is always the same: When we are grieving we need to remember that two things can be true at the same time. We can deeply miss our person and we can also live a meaningful life. Often people feel stuck in their grief because they are afraid that if they start to live a meaningful life again it means that they are moving on and letting go of their person. But the two are not mutually exclusive. We will never “get over” the loss of a loved one. We will always miss them and wish they were here. But we can also go on to enjoy our lives and create meaning and move forward. My advice to you is to actively carve out space and time to honor and mourn for your mother, while at the same time taking steps to build up your life again.

Question: When just when will I be able to let go so to say? It’s been 18 yrs and the pain never eases up. I want to be whole and not sure I can. I feel so empty without her. 

Answer: The truth is that you may never let go and that’s okay. You may never feel whole without your mother. And that’s okay too. Finding ways to bolster support in your life, to give yourself the sense of being nurtured, and to create meaning from your life choices is what is important. Losing a mother is a profound experience that will follow us all of our years. It will never be okay that we lost our mothers too soon. Accepting that is the key to moving forward. And moving forward does not mean letting go. I do think that we need to find ways to mother ourselves though. For a long time after my mother died I thought the answer to not having a mother was to not need a mother. And eventually I realized that the opposite was true – I did need a mother and since she isn’t here anymore I realized I needed to learn how to mother myself. Ask yourself what that might look like for you. For me, mothering myself meant taking better care of myself both psychologically and physically. It also meant showing myself the same kind of compassion and forgiveness my mother would have shown me. Figuring these things out for yourself will help you to feel whole again.

Question: I am approaching my birthday and will be turning the age my mother was when she passed. Do you have any tips on how I can cope with what I anticipate to be a very emotional day? 

Answer: Hope Edelman, author of Motherless Daughters, calls these “neon numbers.” Those overlapping ages and dates and anniversaries and milestones that line up with our mothers. You are not alone in feeling big emotions and anxiety around these dates. I’ve found that often the lead-up to the date is more intense than the actual day itself. The biggest one I’ve hit so far was the year I turned 36 – this birthday for me marked half of my life that my mother had been gone and I knew that every day after that birthday I would have been alive longer without her than with her. Thinking about it like that caused a huge swell of grief to rise up within me and as the birthday approached I experienced many feelings of sadness and anxiety. It helped me to write about it and to talk about it with other motherless daughters. Knowing I wasn’t alone and hearing how other women had coped eased my anxiety. I know I will face this again when my daughters turn 18, the age I was when my mother died, and also when I turn 58, the age she was when she died. It’s completely normal to experience intensity around these milestones. Find ways to bolster your support system and also find compassion for yourself as you go through these markers.


Don’t forget to sign up for the live call and enter the giveaway if you’re interested!