Now that I’m Grieving My Mom, I Wish I Appreciated Her More

Growing up, I had a tendency to act like a spoiled brat whenever I didn’t get my way. Many people have done this, I know, but what took my behavior to the next level was that no matter which parent made the decision to tell me, “No,” I would always take my frustrations out on my mother.

It didn’t matter what the situation was or why I couldn’t have my way, my mom was always the victim of my emotions.

In between complaints about how everyone else’s parents got them xyz or how everyone else’s parents let them do xyz, I would berate my mom with incredibly harsh and seemingly unforgivable words and sometimes even become destructive (on more than one occasion, I kicked a hole through my bedroom wall).

My Mom Never Let a Good Teaching Moment Go to Waste

I know my behavior hurt my mom, but she would most always respond with grace. Her words were stern, yet calm; disciplinary, yet kind. And it was in the make-up moments after the blow ups that I always learned the most from her. The talks, the expectations, the life lessons.

Many times, those talks included phrases like, “Be thankful,” “You are blessed beyond measure compared to other children,” and, “You are so fortunate. Appreciate what you do have.”

What I didn’t understand at the time was that my mom wasn’t just talking about material things.

overdue thank you boardGrieving My Mom Put Things into Perspective

Several years later, I was holding her hand in a hospital room, singing hymns to her, and begging her to stay with us. I kept repeating over and over how much I loved her and how sorry I was for anything I ever put her through. She couldn’t really respond, but her faint nods in and out of consciousness let me know she heard me and she understood.

Some time later, after I had a chance to wrap my brain around the fact that she was gone forever, I finally understood what she was trying to tell me all those years ago: I was blessed beyond measure because I had two parents who loved me unconditionally, even when I repeatedly put that love to the test; I was fortunate that my parents cared enough about me to tell me, “No,” and to discipline me when I reacted negatively. I didn’t know it as a child, but my mom was (perhaps unknowingly herself) preparing me for a time when I wouldn’t have her in my life and helping me to be thankful for the times we did have together.

I was, in a way, too blessed to see what I had, and I didn’t fully appreciate it until it was taken from me.

That’s what I should have said to my mom—how much I genuinely appreciated her. The sacrifices she made for me, the emotional pain she endured on my behalf, all the frustration I put her through. She knew I loved her, but did she know just how much I appreciated all that she was and all that she did for me?

I’m sure she did. Mothers always know those things. But I still wish I’d said it out loud, even if my actions had already shown her.

My Mom’s Lessons Have Helped Me Move Forward

It’s now been 2,191 days. Days of sadness, grief, loneliness, anger, and hurt. But also, days of joy, bravery, strength, grace, and peace. It’s been 2,191 days living this life without my mom.

And for some, this might seem like a trivial thing, a no-big-deal kind of thing. For those who have strained or estranged relationships with their moms, 2,191 days might seem like regular days in a life accustomed to absence.

But for me, six long years without her has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows, a never-ending journey of grit and grace, healing and setbacks, self-discovery and personal growth. Six years of growing up and grieving my mom, learning to parent my own children without her help, learning to be a mother without a mother.

And while I make it a point to try and not dwell on the past or live with regrets, I do think often about those conversations my mom and I had when I was growing up. I am now aware that life is fleeting and I tell my loved ones often how much I appreciate them—how profoundly grateful I am for them and the things they do for me and my family.

Now I’m Sharing My Mom’s Advice with My Own Children

I don’t know if it’s growing older, losing a huge part of my heart, or both that made me realize how fortunate I was to have the mother I had. Whatever the cause for my awakening, I now use this knowledge to teach my own children. I remind them often how short life is and how we should appreciate everything and everyone we have while we still have them. It’s a never-ending lesson in gratitude that I hope, one day, my children will pass on to their children.

While the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” might be cliché, it’s so very true. And now, I never miss an opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks for all my blessings, material and relational. It’s just one of the many ways I can still show my mom appreciation, even though she’s gone.

Though we might not recognize it at times, we are blessed beyond measure. The best thing we can do to honor those around us is to let them know just how much we value them.

Say it out loud and show it often: “I appreciate you.”

Amber shares more of what she learned after the loss of her mom, and how we can best respond when someone we love is navigating grief after a major loss:

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