Living with Grief


A year ago, I lost my mother. I’ve lost people prior to this, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and beloved pets, but nothing quite hits like the loss of your mother. In the past year, I have learned a lot about grief and how people react to grief. I’ve looked at my own reactions to grief before losing my mother and realized that as much as I sympathized with my people who lost a parent, you can never truly know what it is like living with grief until it happens to you.

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional ache that presents itself when someone is taken away from you. Over the years, many researchers have taken the time to document grief in a variety of different people, and the truth is that there is not one response to loss or a group of emotions that we go through in chronological order.

Me and my Mother
Me and my mother

Therefore, for the purposes of this blog, I will only discuss my own experiences of living with grief. I have broken down my stages and described how I felt during each stage. I have tried to be as candid as possible so that those living with grief can relate to the process.

Passing On

My mother passed away on December 7th, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. This made the event entirely unique for me. My mother had traveled from Ireland, my home country, to Australia to visit my brother, who lived in Sydney. Unfortunately, she became ill in Australia, and after Thanksgiving, we were given the news that we needed to travel to visit her before it was too late. I was on autopilot. I did not have time to process the news before boarding a flight to LA and then on to Sydney to see her. I spent the last week of her life by her side, surrounded by family. Every day, we supported each other emotionally and were with her to witness her last breath. In Ireland, it is customary to celebrate the life of a loved one for a few days after their death, known as a ‘Wake.’ Unfortunately, we were unable to do this, and the last week of her life was like the Wake for us.

The Initial Aftermath

The few days after her death were very busy with us saying goodbye to each other and traveling back to our homes. The only way I can describe the next few months is by trying to get through them. Every day, I woke only to remember she had passed. The constant reminder was anxiety-inducing and exhausting. So many times during the day, I would remember again, and I constantly had flashbacks to our last conversations, in particular, the last night I had with her.  

Parenting Through Grief

Parenting in these first few months was difficult. I did not have the capacity to give myself fully to my children or to help them through their everyday tasks. Within seven weeks of my mother’s passing, we celebrated her birthday, Christmas, my birthday, our wedding anniversary, and my husband’s birthday. Every celebration was a reminder that she was not here and how different things were going to be without her. My husband was amazing at this time and stepped in to help out at every turn. I honestly don’t know how I would have gotten through those months without him.

Physical Effects of Grief

One thing that is rarely talked about when it comes to living with grief is the physical effects. I caught Covid on the flight home from Sydney, and I believe the stress of the situation caused my immune system to become vulnerable. I’ve never had issues getting to sleep and all of a sudden I was wide awake hours after my typical bedtime. Of course, I blamed this on jet lag at the beginning, but a year later, I still had issues drifting off to sleep. Grief can show up hours, days, months, and even years after the passing in a physical capacity. It is completely normal to catch every bug, cold, or flu during grief, to suddenly get rashes or chronic illnesses, and also to suffer from insomnia, stomach issues, or other physical ailments.

Living with Grief

After the initial shock and getting myself through the first few months, I was able to get on with my day-to-day life. I was so grateful to have work to distract me and was able to settle into the rhythm of my normal everyday life. Parenting became easier, however, watching your own children grieve, is very difficult and, at times, feels heavier than your own grief. 

I’m a firm believer in letting yourself feel what you are experiencing. I tend to be an optimist with a positive mindset, but I don’t believe we need to be happy 24 hours a day. I believe if you need to cry or be angry, then you should allow yourself to feel that, and that’s what I did. At times, I put on music that reminded me of my mother, and I cried. I allowed myself the time to grieve. 

The fact is, I will miss my mother every day in this lifetime, and I need to learn to live with that grief. I need to get up every day and remember that her legacy was the love that she gave to me and my brothers and sisters and how it’s our responsibility to pass that along to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I need to give myself the time and grace to have those moments of grief and remember the memories that we made together. If the last year has taught me anything, it is that grief is not linear; it does not follow a pattern, and it can hit you at any moment. Grief is different for everyone. We all have a time, and for some of us, like my mother, their time came far too early. Our legacy, however, will last forever as our love, our kindness, and our strengths will pass through each generation, and as the children of someone who has passed, it is our job to ensure their legacy continues.