First Christmas Without Mom

I’m searching the internet for ways to get through this first festival of lights season without my mother. The articles I read about loss and the holidays offer helpful tips for getting through it. So many helpful suggestions: find meaning in your traditions, ask for help, plan ahead, discover what has most value to you, change it up, keep it the same, leave an empty chair at the table, feel the absence.

This small list hardly scratches the surface. And what I keep thinking is, skip to January!

This is not an option I would actually take, because in some other corner of my being, I want to be with the people I love, I want to watch my grandkids with their eyes lighting up, I want not to lose all the other things I enjoy about celebrating just because I have lost her. I even wish it could be the same as usual, minus my mother, but even in this way, life is not cooperating (and neither is my family). It will be utterly, remarkably and painfully different. There will be no attempt or even option to pretend or assimilate as if she has not died.

How did I manage it when my wife died so many years ago, at almost exactly the same time? I can’t even remember.

So, not knowing exactly what taking care of myself would look like in this moment, I prepare. I ask for everyone’s wish list. I make the house ready and pull the boxes down from the attic (actually, I haven’t done that yet). I try to figure out where we will actually be when. I make lists. And I cry…

Today I pulled up the list from last year, happy for something I don’t have to reinvent, and there, second name from the top, there it was. “Mom.” As it turns out, last year was the last year she will be on my list.

Last year, before her diagnosis, when all she wanted was a family picture. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I drove everyone crazy and begged them to make it happen. There we all are, under the arches at Lake Merritt in our town, Oakland, smiling and happily unaware what the next year would bring.

There are so many things I’m grateful for and I remember them each day. I’m grateful to have a mother I can sincerely mourn. I’m grateful for all the love and support I have in my life, for a wonderful wife, and children, and friends and work I love. But just for today, I’m saying to myself, “Let it stink that your mom died. Don’t make it better. Be grumpy. For one day, don’t try to see the bright side.” Complain a little.

How am I doing?

Cheryl Espinosa-Jones

More Articles Written by Cheryl

Cheryl Jones is a grief counselor and the host of Good Grief radio at VoiceAmerica. During her education as a Marriage and Family Therapist, her first wife was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, which was at the time a uniformly terminal illness with a six month to one year prognosis. In the eight years that followed, Cheryl engaged daily in the work of preparing for her death. She was trained during this period by Stephen and Ondrea Levine (Who Dies and Grieving Into Life and Death) and Richard Olney (founder of Self-Acceptance Training). After her wife’s death, Cheryl immersed herself in her own multifaceted grief, startled by frequent moments of joy.! ! Along with her private therapy practice, Cheryl is Manager of Professional Education at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, CA. She has trained extensively with Erving Polster, leader in the field of gestalt therapy and author of Everybody’s Life is Worth a Novel. Previously, she was Clinical Director at the Alternative Family Project, which served the therapeutic needs of LGBTQ families in San Francisco. She also wrote a column for the San Francisco Bay Times called Motherlines and ran Considering Parenthood groups for the LGBT community. Website: www.weatheringgrief.com Good Grief host page: www.voiceamerica.com/show/2264/good-grief

5 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



  • EUNICE says:

    My dear I know the pain I also lost my mother in May 30 last and couldn’t take it. It took me five months before I could be able to go to my mother’s place. The pain of lost is not in the heart but on the side of your rib or stomach. If you feel like crying do so, anytime and anywhere, my dear. I used to cry anywhere not even noticing people were looking at me and did not even mind them because they did not know what I was going through. I also lost focus at work and could not produce and thought it was the end of me but I was fine with it. One night as usual could not sleep I cried and prayed to God and told Him that Father you are the only one who understand the pain I had and You are the only one who can reach were the pain is please Father heal the pain. Believe me God works in His own was the pain was a bit less that it used to be and it heals day by day even though I still mourn her but it is not the same as before. What you must do, thank God for the mother He gave u and the years you spent with her. Just think of the good times, things you used to do together. Closing up not wanting to talk about mom kills and there be no closure. Trust God you will see his miracle and HIs way of working things out.

    • EUNICE says:

      My dear I know the pain I also lost my mother in May 30 last year and couldn’t take it. It took me five months before I could be able to go to my mother’s place. The pain of lost is not in the heart but on the side of your rib or stomach. If you feel like crying do so, anytime and anywhere, my dear. I used to cry anywhere not even noticing people were looking at me and didn’t even mind them because they did not know what I was going through. I also lost focus at work and could not produce and thought it was the end of me but I was fine with it. One night as usual could not sleep I cried and prayed to God and told Him that Father you are the only one who understand the pain I had and You are the only one who can reach out where the pain is please Father heal the pain. Believe me God works in His own way the pain was a bit less that it used to be and it heals day by day even though I still mourn her but it is not the same as before. What you must do, thank God for the mother He gave u and the years you spent with her. Just think of the good times, things you used to do together. Closing up not wanting to talk about mom kills and there be no closure. Trust God you will see his miracle and HIs way of working things out.

  • My first Christmas without my Mom was very tough, but something meaningful happened. http://megandewitt.blogspot.com/2015/01/christmas-gifts-from-mom.html

  • Cristina says:

    My mom passed in October 2014. This will be my 2nd Christmas without her. I miss her terribly and tell her every day. Although I’d never want to relive the pain of last year, the holidays are nevertheless tough. This Christmas, I hope to honor her memory by making pozole (a Mexican pork/hominy soup) as my mother did brilliantly every Christmas. I know mine will never be as good as hers, but maybe eventually, I’ll get it right.

  • Besufekade Mulu says:

    For me it is the first time I celebrate christmas without maman. The year before we did so without dad but she was there…you know it was better. The day after it’s christmas (january 7th is how we celebrate it in Ethiopia), and I don’t know what to do. You see she was not just my mother, she was the one I worried about almost 24/7, I used to worry where she went, if she stayed late I would say small prayer and go out to look for her. The last year however, I completely shut down and reduced what I was doing. I was not shocked by dad’s death but guilty and angry over the conditions. He was in hospital for about a year and died of ALS. He suffered so much for nothing. She was the only one that would say he is going to live and come home and we would change our home to suit his needs. His death broke her and i didn’t notice until after she died or I ignored it because i desperately needed to know that she was fine and happy! almost seven month after his death she passed away suddenly. I was right there next to her room and it happened after I we had a huge fight because she wouldn’t eat her dinner on time, she is a diabetic you see. I draged her out of the kitchen tried to force her to eat but to no avail so I just left the room and went in my room and thinking I would check on her but I never did. I woke once up and checked on her but she was still on the shower so I so mad, I left her there. All she said to me was to bring her hot water, I was on the way to do that but instead of doing it thinking that she would go out faster I just went back in my room and fell asleep, I only woke up after my brother screamed at around 3:00 in the morning and we found her uncouncious. I ran to get help from the community hospital but they didnt tell us anything, they just checked her and left. I called my aunt and she came around 6:00 in the morning and we got to another hospital at around 7 but it was too late then. I keep thinking that it’s my fault, other times I want her back other times I worry about where she is. Most times I actually believe that she is in hell because of me. Which is weird because this is recent. When she first died I just was like you know what she is with God know and i took comfort in that and the day after the funeral I was actually better I was smiling and somehow happy again. I don’t know if it was because she was with God or the idea that she was reunited with dad. I don’t know. But I felt comforted. But know I don’t know what to do I just her here with me. I feel like everything is pointless from now on. Please Just tell me what to do. I am even more afraid that I would make God mad for not being thankful or because I keep doubting and trying to make sure that she would get to heaven if any religion was right instead of Christianity! I need your prayers and support! Thanks and God Bless!