Five Years Without My Mom

Grief + Loss //

When I was a little girl my biggest fear was her dying. I was a strong type 4 as a child even, and my emotions often felt overwhelming. With her though, I always felt heard, needed, seen, appreciated.

My worst fears came true that cold morning in 2013, and now today we celebrate five years closer to seeing her again. Losing my mom was only the beginning of a string of losses and eulogies and grief so thick you can grab right ahold of it.

It’s been a challenge the last few years to decipher who to miss, who to think of, which loss weighs heavier that particular day - but when it comes down to it, as my sister said this morning, “They’re experiencing HEAVEN. They wouldn’t come back even if they could.”

And I smiled.

Because half of us there means half of us is here. And we have her to thank for us who remains. The mother who gave me the two best sisters in all the world.

Happy Heaven day, mama. We sure miss you, but know you’re surrounded by love and are grateful for all the light that you left.


Learning How to Honor Grief

Learning to Honor Grief /

Fall and I have a love-hate relationship. What was once my favorite season became one scarred with loss and an aching I thought would never leave. A few years after losing my mom, autumn emerged and I began to enjoy the parts that once hurt.

And then I lost my dad.

Sometimes three losses in four years feels an impossible load to carry. My back hurts. My shoulders. My heart. Some days I feel immense gratitude, joy even. Light on my feet. Thankful for small wonders. The next day, the load weighs me down, in a deep and impossible-to-catch-my-breath sort of way.

I’m starting to remember and to honor both sorts of days. To acknowledge their place in my story. To stop apologizing. To just be in them, knowing the tunnel is just that. Light on the other end. Worth the walking.

I’m taking some new steps this week, to walk with more intent, towards what I know I need. And that’s the important thing I think. That we do the thing we must, even when we feel we can’t. We must fight. I must fight. So I am. Grace upon grace. Upon grace. Upon grace.


When the Missing is Too Much - on Grief

When Grief is Too Much /

Sometimes the missing can be so conflicting. Who do I think about next? My mom? My brother? My dad? There are certain things that instantly take me to one of them and I weep. But sometimes - sometimes it’s a combination of the three.

At these times my sister and I simply say, “I miss the family” and that about covers it. Still it’s hard. There’s a guilt/shame feeling for not missing one as much as the others (when in reality this is the normal order of things). There’s unfinished business. Unanswered questions. Words left unspoken. And just so much life to share.

It’s been five years since I last sent my mom our back to school photos. Up until this year, I could at least send them to my dad - who would rave at how big the kids have gotten, tell me how proud he is, and remind me how much he misses living close. Before that my brother was included. Now - it’s left to my sisters.

But it stings some. The missing of them. The calls and photos unsent. The updates, funny stories, wild antics. I miss all of that every day stuff. I miss it x three - and though time does heal, when it’s the dark, quiet of night, grief reveals itself again.

And I have to sit with it. Acknowledge it. And let it move through. It’s not easy stuff - and I may not talk about it publicly as I once did, that doesn’t diminish the truth of it: loss is inevitable, it’s unfair, it hurts, but it’s life. I’ve walked some hard, tough roads in my thirty-six years, but I’m here. I’m still standing. And I intend to be for a long time yet.


Mother's Day: a Tribute

MOTHER'S DAY - grief & loss - a tribute (

Recently I had an opportunity to nominate someone for a Mother's Day giveaway.  The rules stated that this could be a mother you know OR a mother figure - my own mama being gone, my sister came immediately to mind. I wanted to share what I wrote:

I nominate my sister, Sadie.

Though she is not yet a mother herself (her sweet dog Maggie IS very much a part of their family), she has been so many amazing things to me - namely the very best parts of our mother.

Let me explain.

Nearly five years ago we walked beside our mom as she fought cervical cancer. Sadie found the roles reversed as she was the one caring for our sweet mama in her final weeks - private and intimate details I’ll leave out, but the way my sister selflessly poured into a once vibrant and full of life 49-year-old (our mom), left me speechless. She did hard things. She had hard conversations. But she did it with grace. I am in awe of her for that.

February of 2017 we were shocked by the sudden loss of our only brother. Sadie was able to jet set across the country (while extremely sick with the flu) to immediately take action and do the most dreaded of tasks: final arrangements for an amazing 29-year-old, gone far too soon. Those weeks were gut-wrenching. But we stuck together, doing things we never imagined doing because our mama taught us what strength is, what family is, what grace is. I am in awe of her for that.

A short six months later, just weeks after her own wedding, Sadie and I had to make another emergency trip back east. Our dad was very sick and on life support. Twelve hour days in the ICU with our father, fighting with and for him, I relied on my sister for all the best bits of our mom she encompasses. We made a decision we never imagined having to make and walked our dad into Heaven - to meet our mom and brother. When one of us cried, the other was strong. When one of us felt strong, the other was broken. She may be younger than me, but I am in awe of what my sister is and does.

Sadie may not yet be a mother but she is everything I miss and love about our own mother. Her laugh, her thumbs, her gentle spirit, her love of those less fortunate, and her relationship with God. And when the day comes that she IS a mother? I know she will be just as good of one as the mama that raised her.

I nominate my sister, who has taken some of the worst things life can throw at her, all before she was 26 - and is now an advocate for the grieving, a believer in wellness, and an encouragement to so many others.

I'm sooooo thrilled to share that, she won! Congrats Sadie, well deserved. Enjoy those goodies, love you so so much.

Summer of 69

Angie Warren

I couldn’t tell you why we were out that night, the two of us. I can’t recall where we were headed, but I can tell you the way the air made me feel. It was a sticky sensation, tangible in the way that if I could have, I’d have bottled it up to revisit in coming seasons.

There was a sweetness to the breeze, a perfume blend of residual cook-outs, lilac bushes, and a nearby campfire, and I was filled with the comforts of my childhood. That summertime air was in my lungs and through my hair, it was both a swirl of romance and a breath of stillness.

I was thirteen years old that summer, and my world felt complete. I knew little of what else was out there, I knew not of loss or pain, I knew nothing of the gut-wrenching sting my adult years would bring. What I knew, what surrounded me, was everything good. It was my mother and father, my three siblings. It was middle school friendships and Aqua-net hairspray. What encircled me were the familiarities of being the child of a pastor, a homemaker’s daughter. These were the things I knew to be true, these were the things that became my identity.

His window was down, my dad’s, and his arm shot straight out to his left. I watched from the passenger seat, a smile framed my face as his hand cruised up and down, in a wave-like motion. He liked the air too.

Bryan Adams crooned through the speakers, something about the summer of ’69, and I couldn’t help but sing, “the summer of ’95.” My dad laughed. I laughed and rested my head back on the seat. His arm came in from the summer’s night, one hand on the wheel, one turning the knob, making the volume so loud I couldn’t make out my own voice. Music was his pastime, and I’ll forever hear the melodies of my childhood and smile at the thought of him, of my daddy.

That drive through town would be a memory that, in years to come, would ground me. The slow cruise down Main Street, turning right past the QuickStop, weaving over hills and passing the homes of his own upbringing, that ride would sit within the depths of my heart and remind me of better days. In the years to come, I’d turn the knob of my own volume up, letting Bryan Adams serenade me through some of the more difficult days. That song, like so many others, would act as a salve, taking me back to that summer of ’95, back to a time when all I knew to be true, was true.

I didn’t know what summers were like in ’69, but I knew what the summers were like in the 80s and 90s. They were filled with the sweetness of watermelon dripping down my chin. Summer meant later bedtimes and chasing lightning bugs. They were church camps and roasting marshmallows, summer was fishing and bathing suits. It meant dirt-stained feet and suntan lines.

Summer was driving through the hills of St. Clairsville, Ohio with my daddy. His smile, my braces, our shared love of music. Summer, to me, has always been, the best part of this life.


A Breath of Fresh Air

Angie Warren

There near the end of the road is a sweet, small, girl. Our trip back to New Rumley Road was far different this time than it normally is, and we felt the absence of those we've lost - but it was a breath of fresh air.

It was family (something I've come to treasure more than ever before), it was laughter (the best kind, you know the kind that hurts your stomach), and it was truly beauty from ashes (I'm currently writing all about it).

It was fast and furious and sad and happy and all the things I needed but didn't realize. Halfway home now and ready to be there, but being gentle with myself too.

The aching of family in Heaven and spread out across the country is a painful one, but I'm grateful. I'm just so grateful.

Thank you, my friends, for your grace with me as I've walked a difficult road the last month or so. I miss so much coming here with my heart, and look forward to doing so again soon.


One Thing I'd Like to Say About Losing Someone to Addiction

Angie Warren // Addiction

Recently I posed a question to a writing group I'm a part of. I asked them, "what is one thing you'd like to tell someone about your loss?" and I found myself mulling over that very thought.

One thing I'd like to say about losing someone to addiction is: the means by which he died does not discount the fact that he's gone. My brother's addiction was not his identity. My brother's addiction was his demon. Losing him in the way I did feels terribly traumatic and in a way, more tragic than the way I lost my mom.

I'd like people to know that addicts come in all shapes and sizes. They're not the same. Some are manipulative and compulsive liars. Some are thieves. Some have lost sight completely of what is good and true.

But I'd like you to know my Joel was none of those things. I'd like you to know that he was funny. Silly. Adventurous and wild. He was an amazing chef and he loved with a ferocity that could move mountains.

Those are the things I'd like people to know. I am unsure what kind of addict is in your life, should you find yourself loving of one. But hear me when I say, it's okay to talk about it. In fact, lets. Let's talk about it more. Let's talk of our losses and our grief and even the kind of loss that feels messy because perhaps our person is still alive - but lost to us.

If I do anything with my words from here forward I hope it's to encourage you to find your own. Break the silence, bury the shame. Will you?


Helping Children Grieve

When my mom passed away from cancer at the age of fourty-nine, our family entered into a season of vast darkness. My children were young, just eight, five, and not quite two and this loss hit us all like a sledgehammer.

I was caught in the eye of a storm—unable to hold myself together—but I had to also keep my children from falling apart. Nighttime proved to be the worst, and inevitably we would all end up a crying heap on the bed. I wondered during those months if we would ever see light again. Would we smile? Would we find joy in anything?

Read the rest of the article over at Kindred Mom!


The Loss Club

Angie Warren

Loss has forever changed me, and as I see signs of growth, of life, it baffles me. I watch winter merge into spring, I find yet again, the strange knowledge that all around me, people are living.

The sun continues to rise. The calendar flips, the trees blossom, the weather shifts. These things happen, paying little mind to the fact that I'm now growing far too comfortable collecting treasures of my dead relatives.

Sometimes I laugh, loudly, at the audacity of this all. I scream or cry or raise my hands, yet again, to the heavens.

WHY. Why cancer? Why addiction? Why me, again?

And I'm reminded of the wise words of the mama who raised me, "why not me?" And I sink back into the couch. Deep breathe, in and out.

I inhale the aroma of the changing season just outside my door, and I decide to do something with this. With this story I've been given. I decide not to let it go to waste.

I've found myself quieter than when I lost my mom and I'm not sure why, but don't be fooled. I'm just letting it simmer. I'm letting it do its thing so I can do my thing.

If you, too, are finding yourself with your hands to the heavens - you aren't alone, not hardly. If cancer has infiltrated your life, if addiction has stolen someone from you, you're in good company. It's not a great club, but it's not a lonely one.

Welcome. Let's walk this road, together.