The day my mother died was sunny. I know it was cold and windy, and even though it was early January, I remember feeling the warmth from the sun that Saturday.

I was in the car with my soon-to-be-ex-husband. We were working through some of our issues and I was driving. My father called and asked me to meet him at the hospital because my mother was having chest pain. I took my ex back to his car and then headed to the hospital. I remember not being ready for my family to know that he and I were on friendly terms. I don’t remember if my sister was already at the hospital when I got there.

My dad told me that they had a fight that morning. He told my mom that “one of them would have to croak or they would have to get divorced”. She had been in her bedroom and had decided to get up and take the dog for a walk. He saw her from the master bathroom window. She came back inside and told him her chest was hurting, especially in her back. He called an ambulance.

She had flirted with the paramedics. My sister wandered in and out of the waiting room. She was talking to her boyfriend on the phone for most of the time. My dad was getting hysterical and had to go sit in the waiting room. It was just me and my mom and I was holding her hand. I got to tell her I loved her. She told me she knew she wasn’t going home. She was afraid. I told her she was wrong.

She squeezed my hand tight when the pain came. I don’t remember letting go. I just know I was moved aside by the nurses when she coded. I was standing outside the curtain crying when the nurse said she was sorry and walked out to the waiting room with me.

My dad broke down immediately. He saw my face and he knew. They took us to a small room and various people came in to talk to us. I don’t remember saying much of anything to them. The organ donor coordinator came in and I didn’t argue when my sister said that my mom wanted to be an organ donor. I still don’t know if I believe her. Some of my mom’s closest friends stopped by. My sister had started calling them immediately. I was in shock at the time but now I don’t understand doing that. It seems better to spend time with family first, to let it sink in. I don’t remember the rest of the day, any of it.

I know in the following days I spent a lot of time at my parent’s house. It seemed there was nearly always a house full of people. I remember sitting on the kitchen counter in the corner. A guy I had just started casually dating came to the house and he was very supportive in those days. He met my parents for the first time the night before my mom died. He spent time with my father but my mom had gone out to dinner with a friend. She said hello to him when she came home but said she was tired and went up to bed right away.

It was my almost-ex-husband that came to the funeral with me. He was family. Afterwards there wasn’t room in the family car for me for the 3-hour drive to the burial. It was my dad’s niece who rode with him, my sister and her boyfriend. So my husband made the drive with me. On the return trip we weren’t invited when they stopped for lunch at a german restaurant.

It’s ironic, the past couple weeks of my life I have realized the hurt my mother caused me and started to deal with it. I have always acutely felt the pain from my sister and often from my father. But I am only now realizing how much of an over-arching theme this has been in my life. I know that I need to forgive in order to heal but I haven’t reached the point yet where I’ve figured out how to do that. Maybe it will come naturally as I work through this process.

Last week I felt like the grieving finally started. I’ve learned that I have to accept my mom for who she was rather than pretending she was perfect. I’ve identified why I hurt so much. I’ve written her a letter I can’t send. But I didn’t know how to grieve. I’ve spent my time wondering how to make that happen so that I have a chance of moving forward. Maybe you can’t make it happen. Maybe you just have to open yourself up to feeling everything you’ve been denying.

Last week I got in bed and I was holding the teddy bear my husband gave me and I thought about how I always get my stuffed Frosty the Snowman out when I’m sad about my mom and especially through the holiday season. I left him on the shelf but it made me start thinking about my mom and my grandmother. And for the first time last night I could remember how it felt to hold both their hands. I cried hard for an hour.

I feel like I’m grieving for the first time. And I don’t like being this sad person but I know I need to let it be for awhile. I need to give it time to sink in. She’s never coming back and I can’t change the past. But I can forgive the past in due time. Maybe that will come naturally when I’m ready the same way grief has come.