Cherub angel perched on top of a gravestone wtih autumn leaves around it. Losing mom blog post.

3 Lessons from Losing Mom

It’s taken me a long time to write this post. The things I learned from my mother’s death are powerful, personal and poignant. 


I’ve had the idea to write this blog post for the last three years but each time I tried, it became immediately obvious that I just wasn’t ready. Processing the experience has taken me a long time. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly be finished processing this loss. 


Following the natural rhythms of Mother Earth means that the month of October is a time that calls up the themes of death, rebirth, grief and honoring my ancestors, making it feel like the Samhain season is the right time to share these with you. 


In this post, I share 3 of the lessons I’ve learned from losing Mom, along with the importance of ritual and a very moving poem that I read at her funeral.  This is just the first of the posts I will write about ancestors, but I wanted to begin here. 


Losing Mom 


Throughout my life, I underestimated the impact that losing mom would have on everything in my world. Even as people around me lost parents, I didn’t absorb the true extent of the specific grief one feels over losing a parent. 


I also didn’t anticipate the complete paradigm shift I would experience from losing Mom. 


This shift took me by surprise. 


All of a sudden, in addition to the grief I felt, I also found myself struggling to understand that I was now the oldest generation of my family. I’d turned 50 only 4 years before mom’s passing and I’d barely adjusted to my new role as crone and now I needed to step into the role of matriarch too.  I was thoroughly unprepared for the emotions that would come to the surface as the full impact of what this shift meant began to reveal itself to me. 


I came face to face with my own inevitable death in a way that I hadn’t before as I navigated the grief of this loss and the cascade of unexpected feelings it brought up. Death has always just been a part of life to me, meaning that I’d never had any anxiety over it, until I did.  

I’ve been able to work through it by using all of my spiritual training, especially drawing on everything from my shamanic training to put things into right relationship again. 


During the healing process, I found myself wondering how my mother had dealt with the feelings she had over her mother’s death. She never said much about it and I never thought much about what she might have been feeling at my grandmother’s passing, until I was dealing with losing her. 


For me, this ripple extended back through the generations as I contemplated the very short journey from birth to death and mourned for each of them alongside all else I was feeling. 


Moving through the Grief of Losing Mom


There’s no one way to do anything and grief is no different. It takes the time it takes and everyone does it differently. 


What remains the same though is that grief is always the price of love and if we love someone, then it is sure that grief will someday come. We are better for having loved, meaning that grief is our exchange. I think it would be far worse to go without love than it is to experience the grief of loss. 


One aspect of my own journey that has impacted how I’ve moved through this grief is that we lost 3 people in my family during 2020. During the fall season, my mother and my oldest sister passed within just 30 days of each other.   


Of course, even today, with 3 years gone by, I will see something that reminds me of them and the tears will come. There is no stopping that, nor do I want to stop it.


 I want to feel my feelings and allow them to be what they are. I honor and embrace the journey through this grief. 


Close up detail of a grave marker carving. Swirls and flowers.


The Power of Ritual 


Rituals have a lot of power. 


They help us mark the passing of time, the change of seasons and transitions in our lives. Rituals pass beliefs from one generation to another and help us find connection and comfort by establishing routines that become predictable parts of our lives. 


Being an ordained minister, (through Universal Life Church)  I officiated the services for my mom and my sister. 


Writing their memorial services, eulogies, and remembrances was the hardest thing that I have ever done, but it was also the most cathartic for me in alchemizing these losses and the grief that threatened to be overwhelming since they died so close together. 


Funerals provide a way to send off those we love, providing context and meaning as we come together in a shared grief. Experiencing these two funerals from the front of the room has given me a new appreciation for the significance and healing power contained in them.


I’ve attended a lot of them over my lifetime, and avoided going to many more,  but officiating these funerals has forever changed how I see them, bringing them fully into the cycle of death and rebirth for me.   


Ritual allowed losing mom to be a way to move through my grief, celebrate her life, and begin healing. 


single orange rose laying on a grave stone - losing mom blog post



Here’s a poem I read at her service: 


‘The Dash”

by Linda Ellis


I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.

He referred to the dates on her casket from beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the following date with tears,

But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth

And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash,

What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; Are there things you would like to change?

For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough to consider what is true and real

And always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more

And love the people in our lives like we have never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile,

Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash…

Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?


several grave markers surrounded by greenery, vines and flowers. Losing Mom blog post.


The Lessons of Losing Mom 


  •  Don’t die with new clothes in your closet.  


Before she died, Mom asked me to give her clothing to a charity organization. As I cleared out her closets and dressers, I noticed that there were a lot of clothes that still had tags on them. Many that I had never seen her wear and still more that were so worn that they had holes in them. I couldn’t help but wonder why she didn’t wear the new items. Knowing my mom, I’d bet it was because she was saving them for a special occasion.


Every day is a special occasion. Wear the clothes. Don’t die with new clothes in your closet.  Since losing mom, I don’t keep things aside for “someday”. Now is as a good as day as any. 


  • Don’t settle for less than you deserve. 


After losing mom, I found a letter in her belongings that was marked “read after my death”

I had a lot of anxiety about opening that envelope, but as her only child, I pushed that anxiety aside, thinking this might contain her final wishes. It didn’t. 

Inside was heartbreaking proof that she had never found the love she so much wanted throughout her life and that since the 1970’s, she carried the pain of a broken heart. I don’t find it a coincidence that she died from heart problems. 

Don’t settle for less than you deserve. 


  • Your impact is greater than you know. 


I don’t think Mom would have ever taken any credit for all that she did for everyone. In addition to me, she raised three step-children and a grandchild and contributed to the raising of all her grandkids and great-grandkids in some way.  She was one of those people that found nurturing and caring for others easy and delightful. We all appreciated her and we told her so, but I don’t think that she ever knew the full impact she had on all of us.


Her true impact was in the simple, everyday things, like how she provided us with an example to live by, guided us in the decisions we needed to make, took our phone calls when things didn’t go well, offered understanding in the storms and made us something to eat when the world was kicking our ass and we were just exhausted. 


Food was her love language. Many of the folks who attended her funeral talked about her cooking as they shared their fond remembrances of her. 


Do any of us realize the true extent of the impact we have on others lives? Losing mom has made me think about this in a new way. 

Your impact is greater than you know. 



Angel figure on a grave marker lying across the stone, weeping.



Final Thoughts on Losing Mom 


Losing Mom was difficult. The grief was difficult. But, in processing the grief, I have found some profound bits of wisdom that transcend the experience of grief. Not just the three listed here, but others that are more personal and related to how I move through this world. 


I wasn’t prepared for losing mom, nor for what came next, but I am forever grateful that she was on this journey with me for 54 years of my life and will continue on, standing behind me in spirit. 


Remember the dash. 


Blessed Be. 


Free Samhain Guide 

Celebrating Samhain – A Personal Perspective

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