Losing My Mother- The Things I Still Fear

It has been 11 years since I last saw my mother. At that time, I knew there would be no greater pain than her death. 11 years later, there is still so much I fear. These are the worst things about losing my mother and the fears I still carry with me. I believe many share these same feelings after the death of a mother.


I hate even saying the name. Each time, I make a plan, check a calendar or book a flight, I skim past the word January and I hate it. I fear its arrival and I welcome its passing. I always will. It was the month when everything changed. While my friends where prepping for their final year of law school and celebrating the New Year with loved ones, I was counting the days of 2004 that my mom would make it through alive. To this day, January fills me with fear. I hate its dreariness, bitter cold and terrible memory associations the most.

Forgetting Her Voice

I feel there are things about my mother I will never forget. I won’t forget her hands, her smile or the giggle she made whenever she farted and hoped you didn’t notice. I am forgetting her voice. Tucked away in a fire proof safe, I have a dictaphone tape that I recorded off our answering machine after she died. I made a tape for each of my siblings as well as my father. Still, I no longer own a dictaphone (who does really). I worry that technology will surpass me or the next time I got to listen to it, the tape will have aged too much and I won’t hear her say “You’ve reached the Topps, please leave a message”. Will I only remember her little shenanigans now only when I read her obituary? Will the obituary remember more of her than I do now? With death notices now going online (like https://www.genealogybank.com/explore/obituaries/all/usa/florida/orlando/orlando-sentinel) my previous statement might just turn out to be true. Will she really fade from my memory? Will I forget her voice – her giggles, her smile, and the little twinkle in her eye every time she did?

Living Longer Without Her Than With Her

Every year, I count the years left until I’ve been alive longer without her than with her. I was 24 when she died. So far its been eleven years. The dreaded year is 2028. When you write it down it seems like a lifetime from now. Still knowing how fast these 11 years have passed, I know that it won’t be long until I am 49 and this monumental moment hits. As I discuss my mother’s death with others who have been through the same, this is one of the more common feelings after the death of a mother.

Outliving Her

This is a strange one. I don’t fear outliving her. I hope with every fibre of my body that I do. What is strange to me is that my mother died at 57 and I can’t even begin to imagine her any older. Instead she is frozen in time. I’ve watched her siblings age as well as her parents who are still alive in their 90s but when I look at them I don’t see my mother at that age. How strange it will be when my face in the mirror is older than her image burned in my memory. And how strangely lucky I will feel to still be alive.

Forgetting Her

My father died of Alzheimer’s Disease. A disease that in some way eased the pain of his loss but stole from him his greatest memories particularly those of my mother. I remember as the disease progressed that dates began to mean very little to him. No longer did we speak of her on their wedding anniversary, the anniversary of her passing or her birthday. It was like she simply faded away from him and my siblings and I were left to bear the pain and keep her memory alive alone. I fear that there is a great possibility thanks to genetics that I may meet the same end as my father and wonder who will then keep her memory alive. Will and Charlie will never know her touch, her laugh or her smile and story after story may impart on them what an amazing woman she really was but won’t likely have the long-lasting effect that having known her would have had.

Dying Young

I fear dying at her age. I look at my children and I silently hope they will marry young. A selfish desire of mine to experience the things she didn’t get to like weddings and the arrival of grandchildren. When I look at it this way, I seriously wonder if it’s possible that I could only have 22 years left and that I am in fact past middle age at 35.

Of course, I have everything planned such as colonial penn life insurance $9.95 per month, money for them and their kids, and all the other necessities but that is not what I fear the most, what I fear is that my children will one day suffer the unfairness of saying goodbye long before it makes any sense to. That they will look at their own children and wonder about the relationship I would have shared with them and how spoiled they would have been. Luckily, my sister has kindly taken to spoiling mine rotten so at least they never wanted for the things my mother would have showered them with.

Losing a Child

Of course, the biggest fear I have after having lost my parents is to lose a child. It is a fear we as mothers live with at all times. I am usually able to control it but there are times when the fear is so real that it is literally painful. Knowing what these last 11 years have felt like, I cannot fathom the pain of losing your own child.

One of my best and worst memories at once is of when my mother’s mother came to say goodbye and sang her a song she had sung to her as a child. The pain in her voice still haunts me today. For those of you who are somehow dealing with this pain I hope I never will know, know that I have the utmost respect for you and I wish you solace and all the happiness that life can still offer.

Fears and Feelings After Death of Mother

I remember my mother passing and a kind woman pulling me aside and telling me that no matter what age your mother dies at, the feeling of being more alone than ever before is inevitable and never going away. She told me I would learn to live with it but the yearning for her love would never end. 11 years later I believe as much as I did that day. It’s a fate I wish on no one but in the end we are lucky enough to suffer. Particularly as adults who have been blessed with the gift of time.

33 Comments on this post

  1. Sarah, this is such a beautifully written post. I lost one of my older sisters almost 3 years ago and my dad last year. Your fears are almost exactly mine with my sister. For me it’s the month of July. I fear forgetting her. With my dad it is different because he was 82 and although painful it was not as shocking. Both deaths happened suddenly, without warning and that is the most haunting. It’s a reminder to live each day for tomorrow is not guaranteed. I pray for strength to truly LIVE every day in a way that honors them and I wish that for you as well. It’s not easy to do something meaningful every day. It’s easy to get caught up in daily minutiae but I try every day. Sending you my prayers.

    Christina Thomas / Reply
  2. Sarah,
    Your words could not be more timely. My wife and I are currently watching her father succumb to the ravages of emphysema and it is slowly killing us. Thank you for your humanity, your innate goodness and your brilliant writing.

    Be well.

    The Hook / Reply
  3. Sarah
    Your words brings tears to my eyes. So honest with the fear inside. I am lucky with both my parents still alive, yet I have experienced the death of my son, so pain nonetheless exists in all of us, it is inevitable . It never goes away, as you know, we just have to learn how to sit and live with it.

    Cacinda Maloney / Reply
  4. Sarah –
    This BREAKS me heart. I was in near tears reading it. I am so sorry you never got to experience a longer life with your Mother. There is little I fear more than when that day comes for me. You are a strong woman. Thank you for sharing!

    Carolyn / Reply
  5. This is an especially poignant article for me. Thirteen years ago, on January 13th, I turned 28. In the early hours of January 14th, we got the call that our mother had succumbed, after a week, to her catastrophic stroke. I celebrate every birthday with verve; always with a thought to my mother. Each year becomes….easier. Almost every day I find a moment that I think of mom; I remember all the little things too. I only wish we had a recording of her voice…..

    Olga / Reply
  6. Sarah,
    This is so beautifully written. Your raw honesty speaks of the truths that only those who’ve survived traumas & loss truly know. I admire the way that you have turned all that fear into a life of hope & joy for your family. Most people do not understand the inclination to refuse to participate in the treadmill of life, and instead live a life for today, getting the best of each other right this minute, in case tomorrow does not arrive. We know the dread of building and nurturing a family life while carrying an awful awareness of how soon it might end. It’s s a weight I don’t wish on anyone, however, I do believe that we are lucky in that we are forced to be aware enough to not squander the time that we do have. Take care of yourself, and breathe deep, February will be here soon!

    Shannon Jones / Reply
  7. This was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful to read! This brought me to tears. Truly and sorry for your loss.

    Kristina M / Reply
  8. What a post, Sarah. I hung onto every word and every emotion. Having the pleasure of knowing you and your family for many years, I can only imagine how proud you make all of them.

    Linds / Reply
  9. Sarah your honesty and eloquence grabs at my heart. Sending you energy and strength through January.

    Sue / Reply
  10. Sarah, that was so beautifully written. Live through each and every day knowing that your mother is with you in spirit and that she is so very proud of the strong woman you have become and the absolute AMAZING mother that you are to Will and Charlie! You obviously have inherited your mom’s traits! See you soon 😉

    Carm / Reply
  11. Sarah

    This is so wonderfully written. On January 30 it will be 5 years that I lost my mom to cancer at the age of 62. I can relate to many of the things that you have to say and made me know that it is just not me. I am so sorry for your loss.

    Kathleen / Reply
  12. I share all of these fears. My mom was 47, I was 21. I have outlived her and have lived more life without her than with. My son never knew his grandmother. The pain never goes away. But it is also a good pain because we had mothers that we loved (and still love) so much! I always try to find good things; the bright side. I look forward to getting old and since I passed the hurdle of 47, I am excited to be turning 50 this year. You don’t hear many women say that! She and losing her have hade me who I am today. I miss her ever day.
    God bless you Sarah and I pray you get to grow old and see your children raise families.

    Ellen / Reply
    • I forgot to add that a hate January too. The 29th 🙁

      Ellen / (in reply to Ellen) Reply
      • January is the WORST. Had a girlfriend stop me at my kids’ school, look me straight in the eye and say February is my January. We both knew what she meant.

    • My sister has a very similar point of view and often says that although we didn’t have her as long as we should have we were very lucky to have a mom who we loved so much and never had any issues with. Congrats on 50!!! I can’t wait to turn 50. My grandma is 91 and like her I want to be doing Jello shots at my 90th birthday 😉 Have a great fun birthday. You deserve it.

  13. Thank you for your post. I lost my mom when she was 52, 7 years ago this March. I can’t tell you how much every thing you wrote resonated with me! You put into words my fear of loss in a way that really helped me understand myself in a better way. I am so afraid of losing the ones I love and it just made sense reading your words. Thank you for sharing.

    Emily / Reply
  14. I lost my Dad in 2012 and my Mom in 2013… This makes me feel less alone in my feelings. Thank you

    Christy / Reply
    • All the best to you. My mom went first and my dad died in 2012. Yours went very close together. Hugs and thanks for following along.

  15. This was beautifully written and brought me to tears. I am in the January club too. I just lost my father, age 59, on January 4th of this year (2015) to leukemia. So my pain is still very raw. I had such a very special relationship with my Daddy. There was so much I still wanted to do with him. My son is 5 and won’t remember him much, and I have an 8 month old baby girl who will never know her Grandpa. It feels so unfair. Losing him so young definitely causes me to fear losing more family in a way I never have before.

    Beth / Reply
  16. Sarah, I completely understand where you are coming from. My mother died March 20, 2010. It has almost been 5 years. I will never forget her because she lives in my heart. I can still hear her laughter and see her smile. What I wouldn’t give, though, to hear her say “Come over here and give me a hugger!” I miss those words.

    My husband died April 28, 2010 – 5 weeks after my mom. It was a devastating time for me. I do fear that I will forget him.

    My father died May 17, 2003. I don’t miss him like I used to, but the emptiness is still there at times.

    Julia Cooper / Reply
  17. I feel very bad for all of you, but I have had similar problems if not worse. My mom passed at 57, my brother passed at 58, my mother-in-law passed at 56, my oldest sister passed at 67, my next oldest sister passed at 78, my dad made it to 80, but the worst was my wife who passed in 2013 at 73. She was a beautiful woman right to the end and I’m having a very difficult time getting passed this. I loved her more than anything in this world and I fear that I will never get over this. I sometimes break down knowing that I lost my entire family and I am the last of the Mohegans you might say.

    sheldon / Reply
  18. I lost my mom when I was 11. She was 38. I was just a child but my mom and I had a very special relationship. I dread the month of Dec.for this reason. I watched as the paramedics carried her down on a chair because they couldn’t bring her down the stairs on the stretcher. From there they placed her on the stretcther and took her to the hospital. I never saw her again until the funeral home which left me with other kinds of memory. Each December 27th I relive the whole thing over again. I was so angry at God. I could not believe he would take a mother away from her 6 children. I am thankful for the short time I had with her but there is not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.

    Robin / Reply
  19. Beautiful article. I was 22 when I lost my mother. She was 48 and as I recently turned 39…I find myself thinking about dying at her age and it scares me. I am also fairly close to living longer without her and then with her…she missed so many of lifes greatest events…she never met any of her grand children.

    Andrea / Reply
  20. I feel like you stole the thoughts right out of my head. I lost my mom to cancer when I was 16 and my dad just over a year ago. I pray that my kids will never have to go through what I went through at a young age. I also remember the anniversary of the day that I had lived just as long without my mom as I had with her. I feel that not only was I deprived of having a mom to help me through life and raising my children, but that my children were also deprived of having the most amazing grandmother.

    Thank you for sharing your story.
    God Bless!

    Alana / Reply
  21. My mother passed in 1997, months after I became engaged and a year before I got married. She’s missed the majority of my adult life. I miss her every day and still define myself as a motherless child. It’s a pain hats inexplicable and painful in ways it’s sometimes impossible to express. Sarah, you’ve done a wonderful job of honoring your dear mother’s memory and the place she will always hold in your heart. You’ve eloquently stated what so many of us feel….just like you. Thank you for pouring your heart out in this way.

    Erika / Reply
  22. It will be almost two years that I lost both my mom and grandmother. My grandmother was like a second mom to me. I was very close to her. Watching her die was incredibly heartbreaking. I was devastated. But I also felt so lucky to have my grandmother until I was almost 36. Then 5 weeks later my mother passed away very suddenly. Our entire world collapsed. She was only 60. She had a cerebral aneurysm (my great grandmother passed in her late 50s from the same thing). I still mourn but not only for myself but for my girls that will never get to have that same relationship with their grandmother. Due to the hereditary component I am scared that I will leave my girls too soon or that they will follow the same fate.

    Dottie / Reply
  23. Sarah, it is almost uncanny how I related to your sentiments verbatim. I lost my mom almost 5 years ago when I was 31 and she was 59. Everything you wrote is so very true. I still have an answering machine that I refuse to get rid of because it has one of the last messages she ever left for me on there! While the rawness of her passing has subsided, the emptiness and heartache will always, always be there. No one will ever love you like your mom. Thank you so very much for putting into words what only those of us who have been unfortunate enough to go through this can truly understand.

    Megan / Reply
  24. Thank you for this article. With the passing of my own mother just a month ago, this was very timely and gave me some things to think about. Mostly, how I may try to keep her from fading from my memory. I miss her so much.

    Vanessa / Reply
  25. great post Sarah, I unfortunately relate to every one of them. My father died when I was 14, that was nearly 26 years ago.
    I have forgotten his voice long ago & there was no technology back then to have saved it, I wish there was. I don’t remember any of his mannerisms that my brother & sister, both older talk about. I now have kids & would give my left arm for him to come back just for one day & meet them.
    I only have 4 photos of him & I together. Photos back then were expensive & I was the third child so the novelty wore off! I now have photos of nearly every person I have ever met & I make a photo book of every holiday we have. I am determined to never forget anyone ever again. I hope I have captured enough moments that my kids will never forget me.
    I will never forget the fear I felt when my ultrasound revelled my second child was due on the day he died, she came early I think I wished her into it! My third was due on his birthday & he was late, uncanny really, I think it was a sign.
    This is harder than I thought to type so will leave it at that, yes I get it all but it May for me. If it helps, time makes it bearable but it never goes away.
    Sorry for your loss, Sally x

    Sally / Reply
  26. Sarah, this is such a beautifully written, heartfelt, important post. I can add nothing, but to send you hugs and love.

    Sarah Ebner / Reply
  27. I am visiting everyones post that was shared in one of the Canadian Mom facebook groups. I didn’t expect to be crying
    This article is so beautiful and so sad at the same time. I lost my father 10 years ago, he wasn’t the best father at all but there are still days where I think to myself ‘i miss this or miss that’. I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if he was the best father in the world..broken at times. Thank you for sharing this.

    Christine Bruckmann / Reply

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