The Grief and Joy of Being a Mother While Grieving a Mother

Photogrief / Photogrief : Litsa Williams


By Lauren Harris

This essay is a part of WYG’s PhotoGrief project. The goal of the PhotoGrief project is to create a space where people can explore and express their grief through pictures. Learn more about the project here.

It’s funny how different times of the year bring out different emotions of grief– the smell of the air, the turning of the leaves, the cool mornings, and the pleasantly warm afternoons.  Since I lost my mom three years ago, September has always been a month with a sense of distant hope.

She was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer late August of 2016.  I remember her sitting there after that colonoscopy, sipping a mini gingerale through a straw that dangled out the side of her lipstick painted mouth, and blurting to the doctor, “So is this going to kill me?”  I was clearly in the utmost denial at that point–wholeheartedly believing that even this terminal diagnosis was no match for my mom’s strength.

The leaves began to turn and fall.  My mom had her port placed and began chemo.  We had so much fun at her chemo sessions.  They were our days.  She was responding so well to treatment– no serious side effects, tumor markers were decreasing, the tumor seemed to be shrinking.  This isn’t going to be so bad, I thought.  She’s got this.  September was hopeful.  I feel that hope every September.

I look at these photos of my mom and I when I was just 2 months old.  I imagine the hope that she felt as a 30 year old, first time mother.  She had a lifetime ahead of her to mold and shape this tiny human.  She had a lifetime of photos, of memories, of smiles, of laughs, of adventures.

I became a first-time mom to the sweetest boy/girl twins on November 1, 2019.  Losing my mom hurt, but pales in comparison to the hurt of becoming a mom without your mom.  I long to pick up the phone to ask her if my babies can eat cheese yet.  Tears stream down my face with the reality that my kids will never know their grandma.

These pictures I find to be a beautiful way to continue to honor my mom’s memory, but they also wash over me as a painful reality of the temporary nature of this life.  I can’t imagine that my mom posed for those pictures with her new baby & worried that she may not be alive to see her get married or to hear the words “Grandma” from tiny twin lips.  

My unfortunate reality is that grief has significantly impacted my present life, but it has also brought to the surface fears of the future–fears of my own life with my babies being cut short.

While the former fears are very real for me, therein lies the blessing of losing your mom too young.  Take the pictures–often and always.  Let the sink fill with dirty dishes and leave the laundry in the dryer.  Nothing is more important than the time spent with your kids.  

These pictures forever remind me that even if I only happen to be blessed with 27 years with my kids, that I will give them more in 27 years than most get in an entire lifetime because that is exactly what my mother did for me.

My grief and my joy will never be mutually exclusive.

We invite you to share your experiences, questions, and resource suggestions with the WYG community in the discussion section below.

Let’s be grief friends.

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