Struggles from a Motherless Bride

He said, “I wish your mom were here.”

Me, too, dad. Me, too.

As the days push forward and my September wedding draws closer, I acknowledge that I am really struggling with my mom’s absence during this should-be happy time.

Wedding planning hasn’t been my thing, and I probably make everything about it 10-times more complicated than it has to be because that is who I am.

But, I think my lack of motivation to finish planning this major life event stems from the fact that my mom is not here to share this time with, and I wish more than anything that she could be.

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Things not to say to a motherless daughter (or anyone else who is grieving)

Writer’s note: I originally penned this four months ago in December as part of my Merry Blogmas series. I never shared it, though, and recently revisited and revised it for publication. 

As I approach my eighth year as a motherless daughter, I am confident in saying that I have learned much about the grieving process. There is still much that I do not know or understand, but I am at a point in my life where I am comfortable and willing to share my knowledge and experiences in the hopes of helping someone else who stands where I have already stood on this road.

Between the years of 2007 and 2013, I lost my mom, my remaining three grandparents, and my stand-in mom (my best friend’s mom). Even though I have encountered all this loss within such a short timeframe, I am fully aware that it is difficult to find the right words to say to someone who is grieving. You want to be a good friend and express condolences, and I understand that.

Allow me to be blunt for a moment, though.

There are things I absolutely will not say to a person who has lost someone, and you shouldn’t say them either.

These are common phrases that were said to me after my mom’s passing — whether it be immediately after or through the years following her death.

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A letter to all women who just miss their mom

To my lady friends and fellow motherless daughters — women of all ages, women I know personally, women I have connected with through social media because of my status as a motherless daughter, and women out there who I have never met but share the same grief with: My broken heart aches for you. I know the loneliness you feel and the pain that comes with missing your mom.

I was 19 when my mom died in 2009, and at the time of her passing I did not think about the long-term grief that I would battle for the rest of my life. I did not know that as time moved forward and my life evolved, I would wake up some mornings completely fine and by the end of the day, I would be in tears because I just missed my mom so much.

Becoming a motherless daughter happens in an instant — the moment she takes her final breath is the moment your life is forever changed. I will spend the rest of my life longing for her, and that is the burden of being a motherless daughter — a burden many of us know too well.


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2017: The Year I Became an Adult

We are a mere 22 days in to the new year and I am confident in saying that I will look back on 2017 as the year I became a responsible and functioning adult.

I am a 26-year-old — almost 27-year-old — woman and until this point, I haven’t felt like a real grown-up. Yes, I go to work each day at a job in a professional environment, I cook meals, I clean my house, I care for my pets, and I pay my bills (almost always on time). Despite all that, though, I still feel like I am a 16-year-old girl dreaming about how great her future will be.


I finally had my coming to Jesus moment late last year — sometime after I didn’t get the job at College of Charleston — and realized I will never get where I want to be if I do not decide exactly where that is. I will forever be living in this state of restlessness where nothing productive actually gets done.

I have officially reached the point in my 20s where I am past my quarter-life crisis and am ready and motivated to become an adult.

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My grand holiday ideas and how I failed at each one

Now that we are a little more than one-week away from Christmas, I feel comfortable admitting that I 100 percent failed at checking items off my holiday ideas list. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not the only one who let themselves down this year.

I know, I know. From today, I still have 10 days to spread as much Christmas cheer as my Grinch-like self can muster, but I am just not feeling it and am ready to tap out. I think I will go ahead and write Christmas 2016 off as a “try it again next year” year.

Perhaps 2017 will be kinder to this list of fails:

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Updated motherless daughter thoughts on the holidays

For the first time in a long time, I am truly excited about Christmas.

When you are dealing with grief from parent loss, even years after your parent is gone, the holidays are an especially difficult time.

For the last 8 years or so, I feel as if I have gone through the motions and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas because that’s what everyone else around me was doing. Underneath the surface, though, there was a large part of me that wanted to just get through the holiday season and into the new year as quickly as possible.

This year is different. I am actually looking forward to decorating, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, visiting family, doing generous things for others, and simply enjoying the spirit of the season.

I don’t know exactly what changed this year because I still miss my mom very much — the desire to have her here is a feeling that will forever be present in my life.

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How my Christmas wish list as an adult is actually the same as my childhood wish list

Remember when you were little and every Christmas your entire family (mom, dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) asked you over and over for your wish list? And your parents probably stood in line for an outrageous amount of time at some overly crowded shopping mall just so you could tell Santa what you wanted.

That’s how Christmas happened in my family, at least. Beginning Thanksgiving Day, my aunts and grandmother started pressing us children for gift ideas. My cousins and I would spew these elaborate suggestions thinking we were doing our elders a favor by telling them exactly what we wanted. We were making Christmas fool proof for them.

Now that I am grown and have a home of my own, my aunts still ask me what I want for Christmas each year, but for some reason when I hit a certain age it no longer felt appropriate to present to my family  — even though they ask for it — an actual list of things I want. I usually respond to their question with, “Oh, you don’t have to get me anything.”

Really, Hali? You know good and well that they are going to give you presents whether or not you tell them what you want.

However, I of course still prepare a list in my head of the most desired and elaborate items I can imagine receiving, and in doing so I have come to realize that my wishes haven’t really changed since becoming an adult. Remarkably, I desire the same things I did as a child, but those items happen to be real and far more expensive than their toy counterparts. Continue reading

Don’t quit your daydream

Back in September I applied for a job at the College of Charleston. This wasn’t just any job, either. This was my dream job as it combined my passion for journalism and my newfound love for higher education.

I was shocked when in October I received a request from the hiring committee to do a Skype interview. Because this was a fairly high-level position within the communications division at CofC and because I am only 4 years out of undergrad, I couldn’t believe my application had been pushed through and these folks were actually interested in me.

I wanted this job, possibly more than any of the other candidates.

You see, when I was a junior in high school, my parents took me to CofC for a college tour and I fell in love. The moment I stepped foot on that historic campus with its ancient live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, the College of Charleston became my No. 1 choice.

Then, life happened and my mom was diagnosed with stage IV cervical cancer. Going away to school, especially out of state, was no longer an option. At the age of 18, when all my friends were moving into college residence halls and starting these exciting new lives away from the small community we all were raised in, I did what I had to and stayed home with my mom. I attended UNC Asheville and received a fantastic liberal arts education, but College of Charleston always lived in the back of my mind.

That is why I cried tears of joy when I read the email from the senior director of communications asking if I would be interested in doing a Skype interview with him and the rest of the search committee. It was like life was coming full circle and in that moment I felt as if CofC could finally be mine. My dream was (hopefully) finally coming true.

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A house divided: Democrat vs. Republican

One of my favorite questions that Justin, being the proud Republican that he is, gets asked by his family and friends is “How can you be with a Democrat?”

First off, that question is disgraceful and appalling, but the answer always is simple. Justin tells them that I am not just my political views; I am not just a Democrat. I am a strong, intelligent woman who has shaped my opinions based on my own experiences, and he is proud to have found someone who challenges him on many levels, but particularly in the political arena.

As election day creeps closer (Early Voting begins today in North Carolina) and heated political conversations are ending friendships left and right, I want to take a moment to discuss how our divided house has gotten through this volatile election season without calling it quits on our impending marriage.

One word: Respect. I’m not talking about Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me. No, I mean that each day I wake up I make the conscious decision to listen and take into consideration my partner’s political views and he does the same for me. I respect him as a human, therefore I respect his opinions even when I don’t agree with them. Yes, that means it is possible to disagree with someone but still respect them.

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I bet Kate Middleton never rips her pants

I admire Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. She is my idol and the definition of a classy, intelligent, and poised woman. I often find myself studying images of her and taking notes on the natural way she carries herself, how she appears to hold her own, and how her fashion — from blue jeans to ball gowns — showcases her lovely figure without being overly revealing. Her ability to look gorgeous and sophisticated in practically any attire is what I hope to match with my day-to-day clothing. When I shop, I often I ask myself “Would Kate wear this?”

I am not a Royal, however, and while I fancy myself as somewhat stylish, like Her Royal Highness I am no stranger to the occasional wardrobe malfunction. Like today when I managed to pop the stitches on the backside of a brand-new pair of pants and strut around my office for God only knows how long before I noticed that my rear was exposed.

My first thought was “Noooooo, not again!” Yes, that signifies that I have torn my pants in this very unfortunate area more than once — today marks the third time, to be exact.  Continue reading