The First Year that Started Without Her

December 18, 2020

It was 12:01 on New Years Day. My fancy sequin dress was scratchy as I delicately kissed my husband and wished him Happy New Year. In the same simple way I felt pretty, all dolled up, I felt messy and complicated too. As the glasses clinked and the people cheered my heart sank for the reality that this brand new year had brought. 

I was just one minute into the first year without my mother, a reality that had suddenly hit me.

Stepping into this new year meant stepping into the first full year without my mother. The first year on a calendar that she wouldn’t see, nor be a part of. The first year she wouldn’t be here, at all, ever.

As everyone around me was celebrating a fresh start and immensely hopeful for the new year and all that it would bring, I found myself paralyzed with the harsh reality of this new beginning. A beginning that defined the year my mother would no longer be on this earth, making memories, spreading love, and blessing us with all that she was. 

Through the dissipating remnants of Auld Lang Syne, the laughs, the rejoicing, the alcohol induced charismatic celebrations, I stood there grieving the start of a new year. The eye of my very own destructive storm, I stood unmoved, as the swirl of festivities around me grew in intensity and happiness. 

I was dizzy from the disconnect from what should be and what was. I was anxious from the hole that had been permanently placed in my heart. I was confused about what a new year would look like. I was terrified of a year that wouldn’t include my mother. And the years that would follow, all empty of her too. It was the beginning of a new pattern, one where I kept adding numbers to dates, and candles on cakes, but one void of her, the greatest woman I’ve known. 

With the exception of my husband, I’m confident no one else noticed my pain or lack of rejuvenation. I was stepping into a year unlike any other, one that would be motherless, a word I hate, yet it holds small accuracy and truth. Every time I write this year on a piece of paper, or check, or form, I will know it is the first year of my life that won’t include my mother. 

A new year, but one hard to celebrate. 

A new journey, but one that was unwanted. 

A new path, but one hard to endure or accept. 

While some celebrate the start of new things, shiny, beautiful, glamorous, elaborate, new things, be mindful of those who are stepping into a new year that hurts. One that frightens them, confuses them, and feels more like a sentencing than a new chance. Be mindful of the hearts that start the year with an ache and a longing most can’t comprehend. Be careful and graceful with the hearts and souls you pass, for while they have been gifted a new year, it’s been crafted with grief and loss. Similar to a road under construction, we are trying to fill holes, find a way to continue, and pave a path that leads to a hopeful future. 

I will never forget the fragile and unpredictable feeling of that new year. The first year my mother wouldn’t know or encounter, the first date that wouldn’t have any new memories or moments with her. The first time I stepped ahead into the future, where she no longer existed. 

Be careful, kind, and patient with your “Happy New Year”, for some it’s the first year empty of one of the greatest people they’ve ever known. 

xox, Chels

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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