Reimagining life without my mother

A black woman and her adult daughter are seated and holding hands.

I ascend. (Stepping on my soapbox.)

On a Saturday in 2005, I received a call that changed my life forever. I had returned home after running errands, which included visiting my mother. She had been admitted into the hospital earlier that week.

While still in the car, my phone rang. A hospital representative was on the other end. After confirming that I was her daughter, he said, “Your mother passed away (a few moments ago) in a very matter-of-fact tone.”

I SCREAMED!!! MY MOMMY was physically gone…forever.

I was not ready to live without her

Despite a year of illness during which she often stated in the days that preceded her death, “I’m tired,” I was not ready.

As a devout Christian, she added, “It was well with her soul,” but I was not ready.

Though she was trying to tell me that she had completed her work on earth and had made peace with people and God, I was not ready.

I was not ready to no longer call her to talk, share my thoughts, ask for advice, hear her jokes, or receive her encouragement.

I was not ready to no longer eat her delicious food. I was not ready to live without her.

Other family members had passed away, but I had never felt like this. There was suddenly an emotional hole in my heart which also felt that way physically. I’d describe it as standing still and someone was continuously pouring sand on my head until I was fully covered. Yet, they kept adding more sand. It left me paralyzed.

I was grieving but didn’t understand the process. It was not until I began grief counseling did I comprehend the stages of grief. It was my first time working with a therapist, and that catapulted my ability to find strength in asking for help and prioritizing mental wellness. Someone once asked me, “Why are you struggling so deeply with your mother’s loss?”

My response was a simple truth, “I had never imagined my life without her.” Never. My mother was available every day and at any time during my life.

That emptiness, fear, and confusion left me feeling isolated. However, I soon realized that I was not alone. From that day forward, I’d listen attentively to numerous stories of others struggling to survive the loss of their mother. Even today, I empathize when I read social posts of those missing their mother.

Whether her death occurred 18 minutes, 18 days, 18 months, or 18 years ago — if she died at a young or old age — that somber feeling lingers and can unexpectedly manifest itself in tears.

It caused me to wonder, “Why is the death of a mother so difficult to survive?” What is it about the connection that pierces so profoundly? No matter the closeness of your relationship when she was alive, it hurts.

My mother was phenomenal

My mother was multi-talented and remarkable.

She was college-educated and worked a full-time job as an operation tariffs analyst.

She was a fantastic cook. Seriously, hands down made the best sweet potatoes and juiciest roast beef ever. (Ask anyone who has tasted her cooking.)

She was creative and used her skills to help family and friends at no cost.

She was a hair braider and would create a variety of beautiful hairstyles, including those with beads. She was the press and curl queen in our family. She was an expert on hair and scalp treatment and mixed ingredients stimulating hair growth.

She was my first teacher and was brilliant. I credit my academic excellence to her.

She was a praying woman. She prayed multiple times a day with fervor, and we saw the results. Once when I was acting like a rebellious teenager, she laid her hand on my head and prayed for me. I must admit that I felt better and less angry after her prayer. 😇 Many of my family and friends recall other occasions when she prayed with them in times of despair.

This bible verse summarizes her, “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all! Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.” Proverbs 31 (NLT).

Living and thriving without my mother

Grief counseling contributed to my ability to move forward. I strongly encourage it. I also received support from family and friends that prayed for and talked to me and most importantly, allowed me to grieve without stating, “Enough. Get over it.”

I’ve accepted that though she is not physically present for special occasions, I can pull from the archives of cheers and lessons embedded in my memory. It gives me the strength to continue living and thriving. I still hear her voice whispering, “You got this!”

I appreciate the family and friends who have embraced me as their daughter and continue to provide unconditional love and warm hugs.

I stand proudly on my mother’s shoulders and those of my ancestors. I manifest her prayers with humility and gratitude.

Today I’m launching the Shellie Soapbox podcast and blog series. It took months to gather the courage to release. I enjoy talking, and my mother was one person who would always listen. No matter how many topics or random thoughts I’d raise in one conversation, she’d always listen and humor me with engagement. So, it seemed fitting to have my first episode focus on her.

A black woman standing beside her seated daughter. They are both laughing.

Call for ideas

Though I never imagined life without her, I am learning to honor her every day. But I want to do more.

Think about this…

Let’s develop an idea beyond elevating our mothers on Mother’s Day. Let’s create a long-term way to acknowledge and honor our mothers — those alive or those who have passed away.

Please send me a message at shelliesoapbox@gmail.com or drop a comment below. I’ll share the best ideas (with credit), and we can collectively make this a movement. Let’s go!

This blog and podcast project is a labor of love delivered by the generosity of my #ShellieSoapbox squad. Their kindness has been astounding. Forever grateful. 🙏🏾❤️

I descend. (Stepping off my soapbox.)

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Shellie Soapbox Podcast & Blog series

Sharing my random thoughts and perspectives through blogs and podcasts. Ice cream lover.