Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Missing Mom: Grief during the holidays December 22, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The photo of my mom and son which prompted my grief to surface. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo 1994)

MY FOREFINGER SLID UP the photo toward her face, circling repeatedly as if I could somehow reach into the image and connect with my mom.

It was Sunday afternoon and I was filing through a stash of old photos given to me by a sibling at a family holiday gathering the day prior. I’d never seen the photo taken nearly 29 years ago of Mom cradling my chunky newborn son on her lap. She was 60 then, younger than I am now. The two would eventually form a special bond, despite the geographical distance. When Caleb headed off to college, he would call his grandma occasionally. She shared about the lengthy conversations and I felt thankful. Those phone calls benefited both of them.

Now here I was sitting at my dining room table, caressing that photo, missing the two of them. Mom died in early January. Caleb will, weather permitting, fly into Minnesota later this week for a short stay. I last saw him in early January, shortly before his grandma passed; he couldn’t return for the funeral.

Sunday marked about a year since my final visit with Mom in her long-term care center. That anniversary date and the photo, along with Randy asking me if I was familiar with the song “The Christmas Shoes” (I was) prompted my emotions to swell into full-blown grief. He found the lyrics for me, then played the song about a young boy buying shoes for his dying mother on Christmas Eve. That did it. The lyrics penned by Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom in the song released by NewSong in 2000 moved me to tears.

The gingersnap cookies I baked for Mom in 2020. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo December 2020)

I sobbed, tears gushing down my cheeks. “I miss my mom,” I sputtered, the words emerging as my shoulders heaved in sorrow, my breath ragged. I miss her kindness, her smile, her gentle way. I miss baking gingersnap cookies for her, as I did each Christmas because they were her favorite. I miss hugging her and talking to her, even if she couldn’t respond as her health deteriorated. I miss the essence of her, simply being in her presence. I miss sharing with her about her grandchildren, including that baby boy she cuddled. I miss telling her about the next generation, my two grandchildren. I miss sharing about my latest writing projects. She was always my strongest supporter, happy to hear that I’d had another poem or short story published.

A sampling of the many sympathy cards I received when my mom died in January. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo January 2022)

This will be my first Christmas without Mom. Those firsts can be tough. I recognize that I am not alone, that many of you have lost loved ones, too, within the past year. I’m sorry. Grief often has a way of erupting during the holidays when families come together, memories surface. Time softens the edges of grief, yet never fully erases it. And that’s OK. To grieve is to have loved.


© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


22 Responses to “Missing Mom: Grief during the holidays”

  1. Such pain in your words, Audrey. I’m so sorry. My mother passed many years ago. I was still in my 20s. I still miss her terribly at times. I wonder what she would think about this or that. I wish she could meet certain people in my life. I wish I would have asked her for more of her recipes. Etc., etc.

  2. Sometimes, words aren’t adequate enough when trying to comfort someone. Sending you virtual HUGS and sending vibes of comfort and love. I know you will find joy of seeing her in the faces and lives of your children and grandchildren.

  3. Oh so beautiful – ahhh the memories and to making new memories/traditions. I have lost some important people in my life over the years and in December (usually right before the Holidays). I had one person just pass last week and two last December and then I lost my Grandma many years ago (my best friend/cat of 19 years passed many years ago in December too – found some pics of her recently). Then I was blessed with two beautiful nephews (one has a December birthday and the other January). It just makes you think about life and how such a precious gift it is and to savor every day, especially with your loved ones 🙂 I am ready to put work on simmer and just enjoy the next few weeks with family and friends. Take Care (((((loveandhugs))))))

  4. BradG Says:

    The first XMAS without a loved one is always a difficult time. Spend time with family and friends talking about all those precious Holidays of past and your smiles will return.

  5. Wishing you peace and comfort from your grief as you celebrate Christmas. Very moving blog.

  6. Valerie Says:

    Such sweet memories of your mom…I know the holidays can be hard…even beyond the “firsts”…I’m sorry for your loss.

  7. “To grieve is to have loved” is absolutely right. Your love for your mom was so great, as was hers for you and your family. And now you have the chance to move all that loved forward, to those who are the next generation. That’s the wonderful thing about loving anyone: it flows through you and out into the world, never gone but redirected as needed.

  8. Sandra Says:

    Sweet picture of Mom and grandson. During our church choir concert, the seating chart put me next to a lady I know fairly well, as I’m still a newbie to this church, who had lost her 55 yr. old son in June to brain cancer. Since last Christmas, they have journeyed often to Seattle. She’s maybe late 50s, has aged this year. I gave her a hug, thanked for their continued strength through a tough choir couple years. We talked about grief a little, she said helps to just get out and DO something. We have a new director, definitely DID this year. I lost both parents, Dad a week before my confirmation, Mom suddenly in ’99 Dec. 3rd, grief goes in waves, but keeps going. Physical crying totally allowed, recommended. I know you’re thankful for such precious memories, strength to build on. Doesn’t get any better. Merry Christmas and New Year. BTW, FLS kids did a great program! How I hated memorizing those verses, now they get mic’s! Great bells!

  9. beth Says:

    I know it will be hard, and your memories will bring you joy and sadness, both. think about how thrilled she would be to see her family growing and continuing on, following in her footsteps of kindness and joy and love. my heart goes out to you and all those missing her this year. what a beautiful tribute to a clearly beautiful person.

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