3 Steps to Help Cope When Your Mother Passes Away

sad woman; who to call when mom dies feature

If you haven’t yet experienced losing your mom, you can imagine what a void that will leave. While the relationship I had with my mom wasn’t perfect, it didn’t compare to any of my other female friendships. Whether it’s your best friend or favorite aunt, it seems there isn’t another person who can exhibit the kind of care and concern a mother has for her children. Even her adult children.

In my late teens, I was ready for independence from my parents, but one of the first things that made me miss home was getting sick and realizing that in that moment, I still wanted my mom. Into adulthood, my mom was my greatest confidant, not necessarily my best friend, but we had the greatest bond of value and trust, which led to extreme openness. There’s a huge deal of safety and security in that type of relationship with your mom, and it may be that it’s not duplicatable with anyone else or any other relationship in your life.

When your mom dies, who will be able to fill that void?

I recently lost my mom after she battled a debilitating illness for months. She made the choice to go on hospice so that she could live and receive treatment in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by her family and her sweet pups. I wrestled with her decision to choose hospice, but I supported her and understood why she was navigating her death process this way. I just couldn’t quite shake the feeling that there must be something else we could do, some other treatment, something her body would better tolerate and lead to healing. She was exhausted from the journey and ready to begin the process of resignation to death, whatever that might look like. The gift that she provided to me was what felt like a bit more control over her dying process. We had support and were equipped to keep her safe and comfortable. These things allowed us to enjoy and appreciate the days in front of her, in front of us.

My mom had a great sense of humor, and we dealt with the death process in much the same way. One afternoon I stood in front of her while she was administering one of her routine breathing treatments. I broke out into a spontaneous jig and said, “I’m going to give you the best death experience ever.” She laughed through her mouthpiece, we both smiled, and our spirits were lifted. That kind of interaction was common in our mother-daughter relationship. I could tell her anything without judgment and share my fears and excitements. I truly believed that outside of her, nobody else would ever be proud of me or understand how hard I worked. Even while I was nearing 50 years old, I still wanted to impress my mom, “Look what I can do!” I always wanted to make her proud but also knew that she saw me at my worst and still loved me unconditionally.

No one can replace your mom, but new relationships can help the healing process.

Comfort when mother ides

As with many things in life, healing will require you to take action at a time when you may expect people to reach out to you first. When your mom dies, there will be friends and family who reach out. They will ask how you’re doing, and if you believe they’re listening, you may even share your heartache and struggle with them. These relationships certainly won’t take the place of your mom, and many of them will be passersby. They know the loss is tough, but they aren’t personally invested or equipped enough to help fill the empty space left by your mom. Because of this, it is necessary to begin reaching out to others, and having experienced this, I believe you can benefit from some of what I’ve learned.

1. Look for older women who can mentor you.

mentor; businesswomen having discussion

Your relationship with your best friend may be fulfilling and fun, but it’s not the same as the mentorship, nurturing, and guidance you received from your mom. Now that she’s gone, you’ll find that you’re beginning to crave female relationships that have a depth, maturity, and wisdom that they can share with you. They may be just 5 or 10 years older, maybe more. The exact number isn’t the most important thing, but someone who has the time and capacity in their life to listen. This can be reciprocated through the energy and insight that you have being from a different generation. You may be able to reach out to a neighbor by helping them in a way that lifts a burden from their life, and in exchange, you find a listening ear.

2. Call a friend who has been through the loss of their mom.

two women having a conversation outdoors

Shortly after my mom died, I went out for dinner and drinks with a friend who had lost her mom at a young age many years before. Surprisingly, her outpouring of understanding and compassion toward me was no less than if her loss had been recent. It is because that connection she had with her own mom was just as tangible all those years later as it was when it happened. This represents the power that there is in a healthy relationship between a mom and a daughter. Conversely, I was able to validate and acknowledge her grieving process rather than just focus on my own. This connection was invaluable to me in a time of great loss, and we have been able to continue that friendship through this reconnection.

3. Reach out to younger women as an encouragement to them

mother daughter hiking

Remember that your relationship with your mom was never one-sided. The pain in that loss runs deep because the amount of love she gave seemed bottomless. It’s possible that there are women around you who have never experienced that type of love from their mom or another family member, and they can benefit greatly from your perspective. They will likely also be open to listening to stories about your mom and the relationship that you had with her, which is incredibly healing and helps to keep those parts of your mom alive.

The Takeaway: healing and compassion comes in unexpected places

It’s quite possible that your closest family and friends may be unable to fill the empty space left when you lost your mom. I encourage you to start looking past some of those obvious relationships and put in the work necessary to bring in new ones that meet a specific need at this time in your life. Remember, you are not alone in your loss. There are other women you can call on to help guide you through this part of life’s journey and help to keep the memory, qualities, and personality of your mom very much alive. Possibly the greatest benefit is that you will also be demonstrating all those amazing things about your mom, passing them on to someone else, and improving their lives because of it.

Read Next:

Left Alone: Dealing with Fear of Your Spouse Dying First

Losing My Mom to Heart Disease Gave Me a New Life

What To Say When Someone Is Dying


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