No one’s ever prepared to lose their mother.  Intellectually I understand nobody lives forever, but it’s one thing to know death is inevitable and another thing entirely to find myself walking the earth without the woman who’s loved me my whole life.  It’s a permanent shift in the universe.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in 365 days without my mom.

There are moments when I’d give anything to hear her voice just one more time.

I remember exactly how it felt to sit by her side and hold her hand.  Even on days when her fingers were cold and weak, there was still comfort in knowing I was holding the hand that cared for me above all else.

I miss the smell of her perfume.

I feel her strength surging through me when it’s time to rise to the occasion.  Shutting down hate, standing up for my kids, finding that steely edge when dealing with rude people – I hear mom’s voice when my own mama bear shows up.

There have been moments of joy countered by moments of bottomless sorrow over the last year. Oftentimes the latter came without warning.

I wish my kids could have known her better.

Holidays are hard.  Regular days are hard.  Milestones are hard.  When she’s not here to share in my life, it’s hard.

I wish I could have known her better.  I should have taken the time to learn more about her life.

The memories of mom’s struggle with her illness take up too much space.  People tell me to remember the good things, the wonderful parts of our time together, but right now there’s simply no room in my head.  I hope over time I can replace the painful memories with ones that better reflect mom’s spirit.

My red jacket will always remind me of our last girls’ shopping day.

I can point out each item in my closet that came from mom over the years.  Dad tells me she would painstakingly search for things that made her think of “her girls.”

Decorating the Christmas tree will never be the same.  I remember all the years we hung ornaments growing up, and I treasure the ones she passed along for me to hang on our family’s tree.

I wish she could have known my kids better.  They’re growing into themselves now, and I think she’d really like the people they’re becoming.

I never knew I could feel so much sadness that my heart would literally ache with it.

There are three kinds of people in my life – those who gloss over pain, those who encourage me to get past it and only remember the good stuff, and those who are willing to simply be with me through my grief.  That last group has been my lifeline.