The day my mother died; I knew that a complicated grieving process would lay ahead of me. However, I didn’t realize that a relentless sheet of bittersweetness would permanently shadow my life.

We look at grief as though it’s an interval of time, or an event – as if it’s just a moment of time that will pass with the calendar year. Or like it will fade away like the sun in the evening or the snow in the spring.

For me, grief is a state of being. It has become a part of who I am.

My grief is a war-wound – one that I must accept. Much like my stretch marks or my dead ends or my acne scars. Grief is a telltale story of the life I’ve lived. Though it is more hidden than some of my stretch marks, it holds the same contradiction. Ugly to some – but to others, a story. An impact. A jaded mark from the changes in my life that I just wasn’t quite ready for.

At eighteen-years-old, I held my mother’s hand as she took her last breath. She had battled a long, painful fight with cancer before she accepted -with so much grace- that her journey was over. As I held her hand, I knew that the following months would be difficult. However, I didn’t know that it would make some of the following years unbearable.

My grief did not last a year. I thought grief was a messy 365 days – strung together by the “firsts”. The first Christmas without her was difficult, yes, but the second one was no easier. And now, the seventh – where I will spend time on Christmas Eve crying out for my mom. It was the firsts – but it was so much more than that.

My grief beats on in all of my days – but it is most glaring on my very best days… and on my very worst ones.

When I find myself lying in bed sick, or when I’m crying over a breakup, or when I had to put my sweet dog to rest… I grieved my mother.

During the holidays, every Mother’s Day, every birthday, and even on some silent spring days… I grieve my mother.

And, even, on my wedding day as I put on my dress and on the day when I become a mother myself… I will grieve my mother.

With every brilliantly beautiful day, there will be a pang in my heart and a little girl inside of me that is crying out: “I wish my mom were here”.

I have subscribed to a lifetime worth of grief. It only makes sense that my mother’s death would impact me in the tremendous way that her life did.

My grocery store visits are tainted by envy when I see any mother, young or old, with her daughter. She has left shoes that I am unable to fill regardless of how many years I spend soul-searching or pleading with the world.

While I try to include my mother on some of the biggest days of my life, whether it be by wearing her earrings or speaking her name, I’ve recognized that it is nothing but a whisper of the child in me that reaches her arms out over every skinned knee. The young girl in me that welcomes the warm hug that would centre me when the world would be falling apart around me.

Your parents are the most fundamental human ties we will have throughout our lives – the two people that have brought us into the world, and the people that have had the deepest and most profound impact on who we are.

There is something so specific and heart-breaking about losing a parent. A particular agony that exists when you lose your roots to the world around you.

After seven years of unmatched agony and all of the life events that have passed without the warm hug from my mother, the only message I’ve learned from grief is: You carry on. Whenever you feel like the pain is too great and you can’t continue on, you do.

Grief will demand that you move through the motions for it. It will come knocking at your doorstep until you acknowledge it and feel it. Grief will come disguised as sadness, anger, rage, numbness, regret, remorse, guilt and denial. Your grief will be unique – just like the relationship with your mother was.

Grief has become an old friend to me. Through it, I’ve come to terms with my mother’s passing. Most importantly, through grief, I have come to appreciate the little girl inside of me that, with her arms reached out, will cry “I wish my mom were here” on my wedding day… and on the good days… and on the bad ones, too.

That little girl exists because I grew up alongside Superwoman and a woman that loved me – even in her death.

I am grieving because I’ve loved.

Written by Celina Dawdy