A Slow Season: A Mother Missing Her Mom in January


A mother’s year ebbs and flows with the seasons.

School semesters, sports teams, birthdays, holidays, vacations, sickness. 

But all the seasons are busy ones, and none more than the fall leading into winter for me.

All four of our family’s birthdays are in the fall, which I love. But add that to starting new school years for two kids and going through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, and you can see why getting to January seems to take only a few weeks.  

I love the fall — the colors outside, the nice weather, the rhythm of our weekdays, celebrating so many good things.  

So when January pops up, it feels jarring — like the sound of your alarm waking you up in the morning. You knew it was coming, but it wasn’t something you had time to think much about.

I’m a processor; I like to think through things, plan things, and organize things. So when something comes that I haven’t had time to process, it feels off balance — strange.

This is how January feels to me.

My Mom died three years ago in January at the young age of 58, only twenty years older than I am now, after a brutal two year battle with cancer. Because I waited many years to have kids, my oldest was only a year old when they found the tumor.  

And we lived cross country. And I worked full time. Seeing her often was not in the cards, but we did FaceTime weekly. Me (a new mother overwhelmed with a baby who spit up so much that he went through 3 outfits and 3 bibs a day) talking with his Grandma who tried to encourage me through a screen and whose smile dazzled me as she looked at her first and only grandchild.

Those memories are precious, like silver or gold, like your favorite shirt, like a friend’s hug.  

I tried to visit her twice a year, but after the diagnosis, she was fighting her own battle. It was a rollercoaster heading up one hill, making it to the top, heading down to safer territory, only to face another hill. Meanwhile, I was working and trying to figure out this whole Mom thing. 

It was a complete and literal mess. 

I can look back now and see many things I’m grateful for that got me through, but it was literally one day at a time back then.

Still, by the time my son was three, he knew Grandma well through FaceTime and visiting a few times a year. She sent him fun, grandma type gifts. She taught him “So big!” and “Peekaboo!” And she got him to eat his first Cheerio even though he had refused for me. They played with toys together on screen or in person, and much laughter could be heard.  

But a few months after he turned three, she suffered yet another setback, even as I brought my daughter into the world. 

I was so grateful and so very sad — so afraid that they would never meet. 

My Mom made it through another Christmas and into another year (a gift). But after she went into hospice on January 14th, we flew to see her: Me (fresh from a second c-section), my husband, our 3-year-old, and our infant daughter.

It would be an introduction and many farewells.

They were a great gift, those few days where she could see her grandson and hold her granddaughter, even as she grew rapidly weaker.

Now, three years later, I’m through the initial deluge of grief and the constant wondering how my children will deal with my death someday. I can celebrate birthdays and holidays even as I mourn that she is not here to see them. I try to talk to my kids about her often — gifts she gave that we still have, things she liked, or what she said. 

It’s up to me to keep her in our present.  

But each January, I take time to reflect. I try to eat healthier, I try to write more, and I allow my thoughts to slow down and sift through the memories. I see my children through her eyes, what a gift they are; how she told me that this is such a short season.  

I try to honor her extra in my Januaries, a reflection on what I learned from her good and bad.

Maybe January is like this in some way for you — a new start to something or a breathing place after a busy season. Give yourself permission to reflect. Take more time for yourself. Be mindful.

The rest of the year will come whether slow or fast. Be where you are right now, breath deeply, and know that spring is coming.

The author (middle) with her family