It happened again today.  A sudden welling up of emotion surprising me. I don’t know why since I have always been a complex emotional maze.  But this time was different.  That tear-filled mountain that picked the moment I was on the phone with the doctor’s office to erupt.

Sucking down hard, I urge myself:

“Pull it together—where is THIS coming from?!”

As I process further, I begin to understand something that has taken me years to see.  It is the root of grief over my mother’s death that brings tears in these moments when I feel alone—as though no one in this world can possibly understand me.

I realize that, in my mother I had the person who understood me the best and pursued me the most.  She loved me in so many seasons when I gave nothing back.   So often, I failed to understand her love because it came in a broken form.  But, I cannot remember one time that she held that against me.  She continued to pursue me, encourage me and spoke every love language to me.

A couple of months ago we would have celebrated her 69th birthday, but eight and a half years ago, after a courageous battle with a vicious cancer, she went Home forever.

Since then, there have been a myriad of times that I have missed her, yet, in the missing, I have struggled for what it is I miss.  I’d say, ‘I miss the card she would have sent.’  ‘I miss the welcome home meal.’ ‘I miss her humor trying to brighten my day.’ And the list goes on until I say ‘I miss everything about her!’

But in this moment, I saw the root of all that I miss. A love that pursues in grace and understanding…my first community of love.

As I came to this understanding, somehow I feel freer.  My grief has a name.  A shape.  I now possess an understanding of why certain things make the loss felt so deeply.

And as that ache rises I have an opportunity to respond in ways that move the grief past an emotion that pulls me deeper into myself.  I can open that ache to the God who loves me and who gave me this mother to lead me to His great love.

I can soften to realize how He has pursued me and cared for me through all of the others who have loved me.  There is the father, sisters, brother, friends, mentors, teachers, students, and many more. And now, my own children too–who all weave a tapestry of love—love for me.  There is the husband and partner in all of life who pursues me when I feel the least worthy of it.

And stepping further, I can become the legacy.  Be the pursuer who loves.  Turn my own grief into new life as a memorial to the one who so deeply loved.

It is these tears of grief, then, that can become the waters of new life.

I commune with He who is Altogether Good and Lovely as I lift this aching root high in praise and thanksgiving.

In Grace and Beauty all His own, he creates a tree of life out of a root of grief.

What is the root of your grief? Will you ask Him to show you? And tear by tear transform it into a source of inspiration and freedom and Life?

I am praying this very thing for you right now.

By Abby, Fan the Flame

  • Tiffini

    crying and thankful you found a name for it…so sorry for your loss and sadness…your words will be hope and healings for many.
    woke up to find you here today:) i’m glad there are others who ask themselves what is going on in moments when emotions erupt…
    love you~

  • kendal

    this is a beautiful piece, abby. coming tounderstand our grief is an arduous yet amazing process. i lost my 22-year-old nephew a little over a year ago. it was sudden and shocking and horrible and a season of anger followed. the ouchies sneak up and grab me from time to time….the Lord has been faithful to our family and we’ve grown and moved and loved through it but only with the grace of God.

  • I Live in an Antbed

    This is such a beautiful testimony to a mother’s love, pointing you to your Father.

    • Abby

      It really is, isn’t it? I love that you see that…she was (and is) such a mother…a beautiful legacy, no doubt:)

      thank you.

  • Jami

    GREAT post! May God hold you close during the difficult times.

  • Beth West

    You expressed these emotions so perfectly. I love how you finish with hope and courage. Peace and joy to you.

  • Jen

    Wow…this was just beautiful. You put into words some of what my grief journey has been. I have lost 3 babies in the last 4 years. While the loss is different from yours the grief is similar. It has been almost 10 months since my Abigail Eden went to be with Jesus….oh how it still stings to even type that. But the grief emptied me like never before and I know now I have been filled with Him. Not so that I forget her or the others but so that I remember His grace and mercy and the ways He has walked this with me.
    Bless You.

    • Abby

      Bless you Jen. What a beautiful testimony to Him…this is grief I have not experienced and cannot imagine but praise Him and thank you that you proclaim His goodness from such deep pain.

      Praying for you in this journey…with love, Abby

  • eileen

    The loss of a loved one takes us on such a journey. I lost my mom to cancer when I was a teenager. The Lord continues to teach me things through this loss and for that I praise Him!! Beautiful post :)

    • Abby

      Knowing you lost your mom as a teenager, this is a gift to me. That you share this loss and cancer, but that you’ve found the grace since a teenager to love Him in this great loss…I was 28 when I lost my mom and though it seems young, I know it could have been so much earlier and what she gave to me until the day she died is all the treasure of a mama heart and life and one that loved Him and though she fought for life here, she loved Him most and so bore the leaving…

      Thank you again. His mercies are new every morning…I so feel this in how He’s carried me since mom died and how He shows me more and more what it is that she is with Him in Glory and there’s that part of me that is with her and longs for Home and Heaven even as I live and love and fight for it here.

      Thanks again Eileen.

  • Beth Werner Lee

    “I can become the legacy. Be the pursuer who loves.”

    That’s where I am. I’m not yet at the grief tears are water of life, or root becomes tree…but it’s good to hear where this is headed! I keep saying to people, “I wish you knew my mom.” She too died of cancer, at 77, and I thought she’d live to 90 like her mother did! I was 40, and that’s a biblical number. As I prayed before she died, asking God who would love me in ways she did, he answered me and I began to see that all of her love came from him. Indeed she had told me she asked him to make her loving! Now I rise in the morning with the same prayer: Give me YOUR love, o Lord.

    Thank you for writing. Everything you wrote to the point I have quoted is stuff I’ve said! So I trust your witness to his making a tree of life out of a root of grief, when we bring our grief to him. Thank you.

    • Abby

      Dear Beth,

      Thank you for your honesty and how encouraging that this way He’s taken me is your journey too. He has made us for community!

      How long has it been since you lost your mom? As I wrote here, it took me years and I rejoiced in this epiphany of sorts…truly, I am seeing that tree of life grow!

      And I love your honest prayer to show you who would love you in ways she did. There is nothing like a mama’s love…so many have never known such mothers and this is always close too…but how this speaks to Him whose love is Everlasting to Everlasting and a million other things and more…

  • Allison Ledford


    Thank you for this post and for praying for us. I lost my mother 10 years ago when I was 21. I too miss her the most when I know she is the only one who would understand. I miss that we were just becoming friends after the teenage years! I miss being able to go shopping on a Saturday or on family vacations with her there. She was the best mother and God gave me to her in His infinite wisdom. I can now be thankful that she is healed from cancer and spends eternity praising Him. She mothered me so well in 21 years that it will last a lifetime.

    • Abby

      tears prick my eyes as I read your comment.

      Yes, we do miss all of these things in a mama. And 21 is so young. I feel like I was just coming to love and understand my mom for who she was and not my ideal of what she should be in the end…those terminal ending days caring for her and just holding onto her with all I had.

      My now 97 year-old Swedish grandmother (mom’s mom) always says, ‘you never outgrow your need for a mother.’ How precious and to know that these tears are good and can bring new levels of communion with Him and life.

      But, oh, the missing too…thank you sister for your real heart and for loving such a mother.

  • Holley Gerth

    Yes, I know those waves of grief well. My friends and I call it being “ambushed”! Thanks for the reminder that those moments are also an invitation to take another step toward healing. You’re honoring the legacy of your Mama beautifully, Abby.

    • Abby

      It really does feel like being ambushed! doesn’t it?

      Thanks Holley. It means a lot to hear I’m honoring her legacy…sweet peace to know she smiles from a place I will one day be and long to be in new ways since she’s gone before.

      Thanks again and for the opportunity to share here:)

  • Amy Sullivan

    Oh Abby, I want to give you hug, and praise you for sharing.

    Unexpected grief has visited me lately. I’ve been surprised at seeing it just sitting next to me throughout the week. I love the idea of a tree of life out of a root of grief, your creativity, and your heart.

    So beautiful.

    • Abby

      thank you friend.

      I was watching ‘We are Marshall’ with my Dad when he visited around mom’s birthday and there’s a great line by the Dad who lost his wife and then his son in the tragedy, it’s just ‘grief is messy.’

      My Dad thought that was a perfect line…he’s re-married and it’s a very good thing, but grief IS messy.

      Loving that He takes a mess called grief and even and especially here brings new life. Only Him.

  • Amber Paulsen

    Dear Abby,
    Thank you for sharing this. May the Lord continue to heal you as your grieve the loss of your dear Mother. I am inspired your open heart and the vulnerability of your writing. You are allowing God to use the hard stuff in your life for good and His glory and to heal and bless others.

    I prayed the prayer you asked us to, for God to show me the root of my grief. I’m thinking of my childhood. Just the other day my husband told me he thinks I’m deeply wounded from my childhood. Thanks for asking people to pray that. I think it opened doors for healing in lots of people’s lives.

    You’re a blessing!

    • Abby


      You are so encouraging and priceless…thank you.

      And even though it seems very much like the beginning of a journey, I am thankful that you sense your grief is from your childhood…or the kind that’s holding you back is there. I know the Lord will show you more of this…I am praying that you see all He’s done and how He loves you daily even as you wade some deep waters, knowing that it is His love that will ultimately heal you.

      Thank you for being vulnerable here and for your friendship.

    • Cherry

      So sweet to see you here, Amber! Can I join in, as well, with your prayer … I will pray along with you that God will show you the root of your grief that you mentioned. Love you, dear sister-in-Christ, and friend …

  • Deb

    Abby, What a dear post! I lost my mom just three years ago, and could totally relate to your words. I was blessed to have her for 50+ years, but as I always tell friends, you are never ready to lose your mom. Thanks for sharing your tender heart with all of us.
    God bless you! Deb

  • Lisa

    Thank you for writing this, it brought hope to my heart. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed with grief since my newborn son went to heaven 3 months ago. Reading this today reminded me that God’s love and grace will get me through this.

    • Abby

      Dear Lisa,

      I am praying for you right now…only imagining how overwhelming these days are…I thank the Lord that these words could speak into your heart and know it is because no matter what the grief–He is our hope and promises to make a way where there is no way.

      Because He is Who He says He Is…I trust you to Him to walk with you…praying His love and goodness into your heart.

      with love and prayers, Abby

  • Cherry

    This is so beautiful, Abby. I loved reading this: “And stepping further, I can become the legacy. Be the pursuer who loves. Turn my own grief into new life as a memorial to the one who so deeply loved.” Taking the hard things of this life, and turning them around, and using them for good. You are a beautiful example of this … and all praise to God, who carries us through our grief, and uses all things for good.

  • Laura@Life Overseas

    Abby, this was beautifully written, and I think you speak to a very-real emotion of grief flooring you out-of-left-field. Thanks for the encouragement to let grief and loss be used of God to morph into greater Love and Grace and Redemption.

    Your Mom would be proud of you, I am thinking.

    • Abby

      Thanks Laura…what a wonderful thing to say…I don’t think anything means more to someone who’s lost her mama:) thank you!

  • Bethany Ann

    “the person who understood me the best and pursued me the most.” you captured, in these few words, TRUE LOVE — what we all need desperately to have and to be. i ache for your loss; i praise God for your wisdom; i thank you for sharing it all.

  • Theresa @ Heavenly Glimpses

    So beautiful, Abby.

  • Jenn

    Thank you for sharing this. I am sorry for your loss and for the pain you have experienced, but I praise God for the revelation He has given you (and now us) about how grief can lead to life. A powerful truth!

  • Jeedoo

    Keep it up, Abby–your beautiful writing that puts words to feelings, emotions, ponderings. It is three years since my mother went home–next week. Yes, she is always there. May peace overflow you!

  • Leaha Shaikh

    Your post is very raw. Thanks for your transparency. It gave me goose bumps!

  • Maria Milian

    Abby, today I was searching for “How Or show me how to Grief; and came across your current article. With tears in my eyes, I celebrate how brave you come across. I was also brave when my daughter Ceci, 45 yrs.,was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer Stage 4, matastized in the liver, on 2/23/11. My daughter Ceci, went to be with our Lord on 4/18/11. These past ten days, I am weak with grief for her loss. Thank God for my Grandson, Max. Keep writing for us. I will pray for you. Your-Sis-in-Christ, Maria.

  • Janice

    Thank you for sending me to this post, Abby! It indeed blessed me. Your understanding blesses me.