Ten Years Without Our Mom


This week marked ten years since we lost our mom. That’s a staggering thought. As we’ve remembered her this week, we’ve reflected on the amazing person she was, the pieces of us that will always be missing, the pain we’ve felt — past and present — throughout this time, and how we continue to grow into the women we are [becoming] because she was our mother.

We have wonderful memories from a family cruise to Alaska just months before Mom passed away — her dream vacation.

Jenny’s Thoughts . . .

Ten years doesn’t sound like a lot until you consider how much life you’ve lived in that time. For me, the last ten years have been the most significant of my life.  I built new relationships with amazing people. I experienced the full embrace of my single years, using them to live on next to nothing but enjoying travels and other experiences I may never have again. I met my husband, dated him, and then became his wife. I had a son. Two years later, I had another one. And here I am. I have been married four years, and I have two little boys, a toddler and a newborn. When I reflect on all the last ten years have held, one thought crashes in and leaves me in shock: Mom wasn’t here.

I’m not quick to tell people that my mom passed away. They can’t help but ask when, and I say when I was 24, or I say five years ago, seven years ago, and now ten years ago. Then it happens. The thing most people who haven’t lived a loss can’t help but let happen. They feel a slight sense of relief because, Oh, at least it wasn’t recent. She’s had time to heal. It’s not fresh. I don’t have to go there with her. Because let’s be honest: Letting someone hurt is really, really hard. But can I tell you something? When you have lost a vital part of your life, someone who was supposed to be there to hear about your travels, experience some of them with you, meet your boyfriend who would become your husband, help you plan your wedding, cry tears of joy when you tell her you’re expecting a child, and then stop her world when she gets to help you adjust to new motherhood, it doesn’t stop hurting.

Planning my wedding without my mom was difficult. There was her obvious absence, but the small details brides’ mothers typically handle brought unanticipated waves of grief. Decide which extended family members receive invitations? Bride’s mom. Make sure addresses are current? Bride’s mom. Those things were so difficult for me, but my mom would have handled them with sheer joy. Knowing the pleasure she would have taken being part of any and every detail broke my heart when she wasn’t there.

My mom letting me brush her hair and delighting in young motherhood.

Motherhood. The term “mom without a mom” is one I wish didn’t describe me. If my mom were with me, she would have asked about every single detail of my pregnancy — how I was feeling, what I was craving, if I was feeling the baby move. She would have felt like part of the journey. If my mom were with me, she would have been just as happy to let me cry the world’s most hormonal, I just had a baby, I’m in pain, I’m sleep deprived, I don’t know what I’m doing, and have I mentioned I’m sleep deprived? cry as she would have been to hold the actual baby. She would have been comfortable just letting me be, letting me embrace the hard of the first few weeks. She would have gone there with me and told me it was hard for her, too.

Ten years have passed.  

Ten years since my mom got up and danced to “Dancing Queen” when my sister and I took her to Mamma Mia, and we were so embarrassed. Now I wish I could have a conversation with her about music. I didn’t even know she liked Abba.

Ten years since I got the softest, most loving hugs imaginable. Even at twenty-four, I loved hugging my mom. I would hang on until she made me let go so she could get something done. I still know the feeling of those hugs like I got one yesterday.

Ten years since long phone conversations about who knows what. I kept her voicemail messages on my phone as long as it would let me.

Ten years since my mom let it be known just how much she adored being her kids’ mother. There’s nothing like knowing your mom doesn’t just love you, but she really, really likes you, too.

Betsy’s Thoughts . . .

My mom’s warm embrace as she welcomed me home from Brazil.

We had a truly amazing mother. And what makes me so sad is that I spent so much of my life not appreciating her for who she was. The year before her death was such a gift to me; I had spent nearly three years in Brazil, and I moved home to Alabama for one year (not my original plan) before heading off to graduate school in Texas. I had always been extremely critical of my mom, and during that year, my pride was chipped away and my heart softened toward her. We experienced healing in our relationship, and I was looking forward to the years ahead when I would be the daughter she deserved. While I didn’t get the years with her I had hoped for, I’m forever grateful for the changes in my heart and the mending of our relationship during the months I was able to spend at home with her.

Mom passed away right after I moved away to start school in a place where I knew no one. It was a devastating time considering my mother had died, but my pain was compounded by the fact that I felt like there was not a single person who understood the extent of my loss because they didn’t know the person I had lost. I still struggle with this at times. Ten years after my mom died, I have very few people in my day-to-day life who knew her. I didn’t anticipate that being a source of extra pain and grief long after my mom died.

Like Jenny, I have gotten married and started my family without my mom here to share in my joy. It really pains me that my own husband never knew my mom … and they really would have loved each other. I want my daughters to grow up knowing my mom as Grandma, but they’re so young now and they don’t quite understand that one of the most important people in their lives is missing.

I sometimes find myself thinking about if I were the important person missing from their lives. What if they lose me when they’re young and they have so much life ahead of them? It takes my breath away to even think about them experiencing that pain, and I know that was my mom’s greatest fear about death — she was secure in her own eternal future, but she knew how much hurt her husband and children would have to live with for the rest of our earthly lives. Her heart broke for us.

As I prepare for the arrival of my third daughter, I know the wave of grief in missing my mom will wash over me again. A new mom longs for the comfort and support of her own mom to ease those hard first days and weeks. What will be one of the most joyful times of my life will also bring sadness as I miss the amazing mom who would’ve been the most amazing grandma, too.

While I mourn the times I didn’t get to share with my mom, I recognize how blessed I am to have had her life-shaping love for 26 wonderful years. I’m thankful, too, for the daily reminder I have of who she was as I see her in my sister, and even in myself. I now have a greater appreciation for her as a woman and as a mother that brings a smile to my face when I find myself doing things exactly as my mom would have done them. 

I even have a little girl who is named for my mom and who exhibits traits of her spunky grandma. Her legacy lives on. After ten years without my mom, I can say from my heart that life is good. 

We’re lucky girls.


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Jenny-Lyn was born in Decatur, grew up in Ohio, and moved to Birmingham as a teenager. Her favorite things about Birmingham include sweet tea, the use of Sir and Ma’am, and the way people offer friendly smiles while out and about. Oh, and the food. Jenny’s background is sales and marketing, each of which she enjoys putting to use behind the scenes with Birmingham Mom Collective. After getting married, Jenny moved from Birmingham to Minneapolis where she invites anyone interested to visit around August. She’s strongly connected to Birmingham through friends, family, and of course Birmingham Mom Collective. Jenny and her husband Soo-Young have two sons, Michael and Jonathan. She guesses she’s officially a boy mom, and that’s a pretty good thing to be in her book.


  1. I just love this tribute. She was an amazing woman. So grateful I briefly got to meet her. I pray the Lord continues to heal your hearts & replaces the suffering with joy. May the beautiful heritage of her investment continue to emerge in you and your sweet children. Love you Betsy & Jenny-Lyn.

  2. To two very strong women….this post brought me to tears. Your words just jumped off the page as I was reading them, and I felt like I was watching through a window.,I’m so deeply sorry for your loss, but you have expressed it so beautifully here. You two are strong women who have come out on top. Blessings to you both!

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