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August 7, 2019 Brigitte Ganger

Q: How Do I Overcome the Death of My Mother?

A: On your own time, after plenty of emotional work

Q: How Do I Overcome the Death of My Mother?
People often ask how they can 'get over' the death of a parent. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. (Getty Images)

This is a hard question, with no clear answer. The solution depends on you, your coping strategies, and the relationship you had with your mother.

My mother died in 2009. Even though it's been nearly 10 years now, I'm still not “over it” — and I don't believe I ever will be. And I'm okay with that.

We don't move on from griefwe move on with it. Grief is not like a cold or a broken leg. It's a transformative experience that will change your life forever. How could it not? Your mother is a part of you, and that doesn't change just because she is no longer present here on earth.

Thinking of grief as permanent might seem horrible, but bear with me.

I urge you not to think of grief as something to overcome, move past or get over. It's here to stay, so you should instead focus on ways to make living with it easy and beneficial to you. And that is very possible! Over time, and with a lot of emotional work, you will be able to live without constantly thinking of her, experiencing emotional pain or feeling depressed.

Here are some things you can do to help you feel better in a healthy way long-term:

  • Give her a proper memorial. Write an obituary that honors the life she lived.

  • Think of a way you can honor her memory in a way that is meaningful to you (I get a haircut on the anniversary of my mom's death each year).

  • Talk about her with those who knew her.

  • Talk about her with those who didn't know her, as soon as you are comfortable doing so.

  • Don't ignore your feelings. Deal with them as they come up. Don't judge yourself for having feelings, or for not feeling how you expected you would.

  • Remember that your progress won't be linear. You'll have good days and bad days, and sometimes the bad days will feel like a monumental setback after a period of success. It's all part of the process.

  • Check in with yourself. It's a good time to make sure that you're living a healthy lifestyle, because grief can quickly make our mild bad habits worse. Are you feeling chronically depressed or suicidal? See a counselor. Drinking more than usual? Make adjustments. Are you exercising regularly? It might be a good time to start incorporating physical activity into your routine. Wellness and self-care are very important to making it through bereavement.

  • Be kind to yourself, and others who are grieving.

  • Carry your mother's values and legacy forward into your life.

One day you'll be able to think of your mother's life with a heart full of love, and without the sting of regretting her death. Good luck to you as you navigate your grief journey. It's not easy, but it does get better if you let yourself feel your feelings and heal without judging your progress.

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