Mother Loss in the 30’s – Guilt & Regret

I apologize for the gap in writing about mother loss and stage of emotional development. I am back from a medical leave of absence, so I am planning to continue with these blogs. I left off at the 20’s. This blog is on the 30’s, and then I will write about the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, so stay tuned!

As you may recall, this series focuses on mother loss and the stage of emotional development. Go back and look at these blogs to update yourself or to get on board:

Age of Loss and Stage of Emotional Development:
0-6 yrs.
6-12 yrs.
The Individuation Process

Now it is time to explore what happens to women who lose their mothers in the 30’s.  According to Erickson, this stage is identified by the developmental tasks of Intimacy versus Isolation.  We begin to share ourselves more intimately with others. We explore relationships leading toward longer-term commitments with someone other than a family member.

Successful completion of this stage can lead to comfortable relationships and a sense of commitment, safety, and care within a relationship. Avoiding intimacy, fearing commitment and relationships can lead to isolation, loneliness, and sometimes depression. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of love.

But when a mother dies, many women have shared with us that loss in the 30’s leaves them feeling guilty, alone, regretful, and scared.

Think about what life may be like for a 30’s woman.

~ You have started or are establishing your career.
~ You are making your way in the world.
~ Many times you must relocate from where mother has resided.
~ You may be developing intimate relationships.
~ You may be choosing life-long partners.
~ You may be starting a family or raising children.

The 30’s is a time of new roles, new priorities, more time demands, more commitment to your new career, your employer, your significant other, your family and on and on. The 30’s woman is stretched s-o-o-o-o-o thin she is exhausted.

The mother-daughter role has changed for the 30’s woman.  Her role with mother has transitioned.  No longer is mother the most important priority in her life. She is stretched so thin she hardly has time for the mother-daughter relationship. And this is where the guilt and regret comes in.

Lots of “what ifs, and second guessing” when a mother dies, the 30’s daughter feels overwhelming guilt and regret that she didn’t make time for mother.

“Why didn’t I spend more time with my mom?  I really wanted to.  I was so busy with things.  And now she is gone.  The things were just not as important but I cannot spend time with her now.  She is gone.”  36 year-old Jane, wife, mother of 3 children under age 6, and home-based marketing consultant

 “There just was not any room for mom in my life.  I worked so hard but I failed.” Susan, 32 year-old single engineer

Mother may have also played other roles with the 30’s daughter — Grandmother, babysitter, counselor, listener, coach, and on. The loss of each of these roles layers on additional grief and challenges. The daughter must decide how and if she will show her tremendous grief to her children.  Many women don’t want their children see them cry. We must remember what lessons do we want our children to learn. We are role modeling how to react when we lose someone we love. If we choose not to let them see us cry, we may be sending the message, “You should not cry when you lose someone you love. Be strong.”

Much like the 20’s woman, the 30’s woman still needs mom in her life. Her life is so demanding but she still needs mom to coach her with the how-to’s in life.

The 30’s daughter’s loss is huge.

“I need her. How will I know how to navigate the next steps without her?”  “How do I grieve and be strong at the same time?”

“Mom, what do I do?” 


27 replies on “Mother Loss in the 30’s – Guilt & Regret”

I lost my Mom at the age of 88 (I’m 62) & I feel guilty, alone, scared & regretful. All the ‘I wish I had done more’ thoughts even though my husband insists I did it all. The feelings linger though.

Thank you for sharing your comments. I have to tell you that I “feel” your emotions. Although your mother loss may have been recent, with these emotions you have to ask yourself “Why?” Why do you have regret and feel guilty? Where does that come from? I don’t know how old you were when you lost your mother. When a woman loses a mother in their 60s, they have may have been their caretaker, almost like taking care of a child. So when they lose a mother, it is like loosing a child. Praying for peace for you.

Amazingly accurate. I gave up my whole career to care for my Mom. I lost everything. But my regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. She would get so sad when I would mention moving home to care for her full time. She was my best friend, and I feel like I failed her.

Sounds like you have played and maybe are still playing what I call the “what if” and the “if only” game with yourself. If only I would have . . . What if I did . . . things would be different. It is so hard to realize that sometimes regardless what we do or do not do, it is in God’s hands not ours. As far as career, it is never too late to figure out what gives you joy and go do it. It maybe a way to honor your mother’s memory. And it also sounds like your mom wanted you to have a life.

I always wanted to have children but after losing my mother at 31 I do not feel that I can do it without her. She would have been such a wonderful and devoted grandmother, it’s too painful to have a child without her around. I thought this feeling would ease but now I am 36 and I still can’t bring myself to do it.

Oh Morgan, I am so sorry for your loss. Loss can be paralyzing. The challenge is for you to decide if the loss will keep you paralyzed. It sounds like on top of the horrible grief of losing her, you may have some guilt about whether to have children. Search deep and ask yourself if she was still living would you want to have children? Dig into that. If the answer would be yes, then you must grieve her loss but move forward with your answer. If the answer is no, then you still need to grieve her loss but you will ease the fact that you have chosen not to have children. You say that your mother would be a devoted and loving grandmother and it would be too painful to have a child without her. I know God always puts people in our lives to fill up the spaces where we need to be supported. He would do that for you too.

We will always be right here to help you grieve her loss. Keep close to the Motherless Daughters Ministry. Attend classes or online programming that we offer. Come to the Journey Retreat offered in June. The main thing is keep connected with women who have walked in your shoes!

Thank you for this post. It is so accurate. I lost my mom in June, six days after giving birth for the first time. I am 32, mom was only 56. The past 6 months have been the hardest of my life, grieving and learning to be a new mom with no sleep and no mom for support. I feel like I have never needed her more, if even just to call her up and ask what she did when I cried, wouldn’t sleep, etc. I always find myself wanting to ask her what to do.

Lea, learning to be a mom is a HUGE experience and learning it without a guide or a mentor makes it even harder. I am so sorry that you are on this motherhood journey without a guide. The gift you probably do not realize you have is the internal maternal wisdom you gained from your mother. I did not have a mother when I became a parent either. Many times, I went inside and asked myself what she would do? I always got direction. Try it. You may find you also a huge source of internal maternal wisdom.

The other thing that comes to mind is to find groups like MOPS, These groups have mentoring moms for each small group who may be able to get support.

Although it would be easy not to, you must keep working on your grief. As you continue your mother loss grief journey, we are here to support you, listen to you, and care for you. We are here whenever you need us — an email away. You are not alone. Keep us close.

It has been half a year since that fateful day. I am not sure whether I am feeling alright now or not. She was 73 and I was 37 at the time. My anxiety was so bad in the first 3 to 4 months. I even developed insomnia and woke up almost every hour. At first I went to see a medical doctor, he told me to take SSRI. But I refused and tried my best to exercise. I was lazy and did not do much exercise. I went to see a Chinese medicine doctor to do some needle work.

I could not afford to lose my job so I did not take any long breaks. However due to my emotion, I missed one or two days of work almost every month. I was not like that before as I was a workaholic. I went to a grief group. It seems helpful to talk to other people who are going through the same journey, though under different circumstances.
Now the anxiety seems to subside a bit. But whenever I think that I will not have her around as long as I will live, I feel empty. Actually I am feeling lonely more than ever. I did not mind being solitude before her passing. I could work and did my own stuff alone then went home with her waiting for me. Now I have to find friends to chat. Although I have my dad and brother, it does not feel right for me. Now I am used to sleeping for 3 hours and waking up, then sleeping again. Nonetheless I do not have the drive to get up in the morning and go to work. I am not doing things in fast pace. On the other hand, I feel anxious when I have to get off work. I do not want to go home. She was so
Some people told me to move on and live my life the way I want in a way to honor her. I could not do that yet. I hate everything that has happened ever since her passing. I find that time has gone faster now. It is a dilemma. I need time to heal but it also means that she is in a distant past.
I feel guilty that I did not care for her when she was sick. I failed her big time. She was a strong woman and would not show weakness in front of me. She went to hospital in 2018 but I did not follow up with her health. It is my oversight. I thought she would be fine after a year. Then I was wrong; she was gone before the turn of the New Year. She left on the Boxing Day. She refused to go to the hospital for few days. I have to live with the guilt that I was not forceful enough to make her live, not give up. Then also I have to live with the anger that she did not care about our feeling for not going to the hospital.
I have trouble focusing on work. When I talk with people, I feel anxious too. I feel people are out to get me in a way. I have to take up more responsibility as my dad is getting old as well. Also I am afraid that I am truly alone when my dad is next as I am single. My sister has her own family and my brother does not get along well with my dad anyways. Also I was planning to have a big change in 2020, before the tragic event. Now I have put everything on hold, due to her passing and COVID-19. If she were here, she would be glad there was a virus as it would bring us altogether at home. It is sad to not have her around. Sometimes I feel that I am like living in a horror dream, which I want to wake up from. I want to seek help to move on but it is very hard.

Thank you for sharing your heart with us. The lack of sleep you describe has a tremendous impact on our outlook, our energy, and our anxiety. We will surround you with prayer and walk with you from afar in your pain. You are never alone.

How are you doing? I just lost my mom this week and I’m your age now. I can’t imagine moving on. I don’t want to, it was a very traumatic experience and I am carrying so much regret. I should’ve quit smoking with her (we didn’t, we loved it), we should’ve made sure she was taking her BP meds (she was very healthy except for what killed her – aneurysm and high blood pressure), I should have been more caring and understanding (my anxiety gets the best of me sometimes). I haven’t even begun to process what everyday will be like for now on. I have people (and YOU DO TOO), but they’re just not mom. This is so hard, and I’m hoping you’ve found some peace so that it can give me an idea of what may be ahead.

Sofia, I am so sorry for your loss. You are playing the “what if” game with yourself. Shoulda’, woulda’, coulda. As hard as it sounds, you had and do not have any control over your loss. That is always the hardest to swallow. We cannot change anything. You must learn to give yourself grace. Mourn the grief. You are not alone, we are always right here to walk with you.

What they tell you is that nothing will ever be the same….what they don’t tell you is nothing will ever be the same…. My mother was a passengerin a A.T.V accident. They werr ejected and fell down a 60 foot embankment. The driver died and his body had to be pulled off of my mother’s. Life flight crew was fast to fast. Biological life is life, they did there best, they were amazing. I hate to admit it I wish they weren’t. She was in a comma. She was so broken and swollen…. An only child, my step father died a year prior. I had to be the person to speak for her. I Held her hand and watched the color fade from her nail beds. She wasn’t there, I know I did what she would of wanted, I know it was mercy, I know it’s Not my fault. I would of wanted the same and she would of done it for me But it still can’t take away that ultimately I was the one who killed my mother. 8 months later my dad who I was caring for died. I sat in my bedroom for almost 6 moths and stared at a wall. It’s been 4 years and I’m just starting to dream again sometimes I smile. I had a son, he makes me smile looks just like my dad.

Oh Jessica, I cried when I read your response. So many losses. I am so sorry. All of your losses are horrible but I want to focus just on your mother loss. You did not kill her. She suffered a terrible accident. With any sudden loss, our grieving is set aside until later. Then the grief comes in bits and spurts over time. This is what you experienced with your mother. The other type of loss is called anticipatory loss. That is when someone is ill and we know they are going to leave us. Our grieving starts with that knowledge. There is no loss that is easier than the other. And unfortunately with either type of loss, the only way to get to the other side of the grief is go through it. And that is what you have been doing. Please reach out to us if we can support you. You are not alone/.

Mary, your article has resonated more with me than anything else I have read or listened to, Thankyou! My Mama got suddenly ill Mother’s Day weekend-very tired, couldn’t get in to see her doctor until later in the week, and continued working all the while she was having heart attacks. Finally she was sent to a cardiologist and surgeon and they said she had the most extensive heart damage they had ever seen. We had hurdles to cross like getting fluid off before surgery-it happened, next a 4 hour surgery that turned into 7-she made it!, the surgeon was thrilled and said she was the toughest person he had ever seen. We were so encouraged, but what was a 2-3 week prognosis in cvicu turned into 49 grueling days. I was there with my Dad the entire time and my sister would come when she could. I just couldn’t leave.
The patch between her ventricles didn’t hold, the fluid on her body went and came again. There were so many times we thought she would die and she didn’t, so for those 49 days even when it looked bad I really thought she would walk out of that hospital until the very end when we had to call it.
My Dad struggles with maybe not calling it soon enough, I struggle with did we call it too soon? I know God has our days written and find peace there. But it’s hard not to find myself right back in her hospital room with all the devices in her- two heart machines, vent( later a trach), ng tube, and countless picc lines that had to be reinserted all the time. She was only 64, was retiring from a highly stressful job in December, and we were all looking forward to getting to spend more time with her. She was a truly awesome Granna. She loved us all fiercely and there’s a great void. Going to my parents’ house every Sunday afternoon after church is SO hard. I know we can’t complain, but it just hurts intensely.

Hi , i am in the same position now. 2 weeks ago my mum passed away at 69. I am 37. I always thought she would be here with me for atleast 20 more years. She was so fit and healthy. She had been having issues with her bloods since last october, low iron, low white cells, low platelets and only 2 weeks ago did the haemotologist think of doing a bone marrow biopsy. She had leukemia. We took her to A + E the night of her diagnosis as she was feeling so unwell. She was admitted to a ward and we helped her look at the best chemotherapy options and she was due to start last monday. Within 6 days she was gone. She was very drowsy and feeling faint one evening and we thought it may be down to the pain killers so i left the hospital and let her get some sleep. I called the ward at 5am the next morning and they said she had had a restful night. 2 hours later i had a call to come in as she was non responsive but had a pulse. The next time i saw her was in ICU . She had had a carastrophic brain bleed and they withdrew the machines the next day and she died. I am traumatised by the last images i have of my mum and am so sad she isnt here anymore. I knew she was scared of dying and knew how determined she was to prolong her life. Now i struggle to look at pictures, im waking up with pain in my heart and just want her back. I dont know how to cope . My children are also struggling it is all so overwhelming

Oh Hannah, I can feel your pain as you write this and I can visualize what you have been through. I am so sorry for your loss. It was not your fault. We are never ready for our mothers to leave us. You somehow have to wrap your arms around the idea that there is nothing you could have done to change her death. I do not know where you are located but finding a grief counselor may be helpful. Recovery is a slow process. One step at a time, we learn to manage our grief. It never truly goes away, just changes over time. The Motherless Daughters Ministry is here to support you also. Check out our website for some upcoming courses (the Road to Forgiveness) that may be helpful. Also we offer a support group on the 1st and the 4th Monday that would be good for you. We also offer 1:1 coaching. Please know we will be walking with you in your grief.

I have just lost my mom 14 days ago. I feel so terrible. I was living in another city and visited my mom and brother for holiday. I arrived on 22 April morning. I played with my dog, went to hug and kiss my mom. We have agreed to go to my city for doctor control for my mom. She was struggling with some kind bones issues. She had also asthma for more than 30 years. But she was always taking her medication and there was no serious problem. But when we went to sleep on 22 April night,suddenly in the 5am i woke up and saw my mom was sitting on the edge of bed and trying to breath. I asked what happened, she said she forgot to take her medication before sleeping. It never happened before… so suddenly my brother woke up too and run to my mom. He started to panic and cry. I made calm him cus i did not want my mom panics too. She demanded another medication for breathing and my brother gave it. She took her medication before we woke up and trying to breathe without waking us. But she couldn’t. We called ambulance and asked for oxygen balloon and notified that the patient has asthma. But damn ambulance came 2 -minuted- road in 19 minutes without oxygen balloon. Everything was late. I remember very well what my mom said. “I start to feel dizzy, my eyes are getting dark” . From that point i started to cry and looking for ambulance cus i knew it is getting worse. She was in suffer. Me and brother couldn’t help her. My brother was outside for looking ambulance and i stayed next to my mom. And suddenly she said “oh my God, my eyes got dark, ahhhhh” and she fell down with wide open eyes on to the bed and i caught her. I couldn’t believe it is happening. I saw her chin was tightly pressing on her teeth, i tried to open cus i knew she can’t breathe like that. But i couldn’t and screamed. My brother came and he also tried to open. But my mom eyes were wide open and looking at one point. No movement, no heart beat…. She passed away on my arms…
After that ambulance arrived. He came with very small bag , no oxygen balloons. He just said she is gone.
This scene traumatized me very deeply. We haven’t expected to lose my mom. It happened suddenly. I don’t know what to do.
I am 33 years old. I lost my dad in car crash when I was 3 years old, and I lost my mom in my 33.
Neither me, nor my brother have own family. We lost everything when we lost our mom. She was everything for us. My brother is 3 years older than me. We are in sorrow and don’t know how to escape. The last images of my mom were so hurtful and painful. She didn’t expect to die like this either. I don’t know what to do. I can’t focus anything, i cry all day. My brother cries too. My mom was our hero. She never married again for us, she has done everything for us, but she couldn’t see how we make our own family. She really wanted grandchildren. We are so regretful. I miss my mom and i don’t know how can I overcome this sorrow and continue my life…

I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. It was sudden and it was traumatic for you. One of the hardest things to tell ourselves is, “it is not your fault.” We always want to play the what if I did this, or that. Sometimes we want to blame others. We just need to have somewhere we can point to blame the horrible loss. The truth is that there is nothing you could have done differently. That’s the hardest thing — to feel powerless. Now you are in this overwhelming pit of grief and despair. I am not sure where you are located but you need to get help from a grief counselor. Someone to support you and allow you to grieve. My prayers are for peace for you and your brother.

I am 31 years old. My mom died 20 days ago, at 63 years old, unexpectedly in her bed (heart attack).
I am still in disbelief, feeling blame, guilt and regret even tough I am aware there was nothing I could do.
I never taught pain like this could exist. I worry for my dad, since they were together since they were kids also for my brother who was somewhat more attached with her.
I am single and don’t have my own family yet, and I know how much she wanted to see me marry and have my own kids so It breaks my heart that she will not be here when those things happen to me.

Oh Marta, I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. No one is ready to loose their mother bu the suddenness of her loss layers another heavy layer on you. Know your grief journey will come in bits and spurts due to the suddenness of her loss. Your feelings of disbelief, blame, guilt and regret will keep you hostage playing the what if game. What if I … What if I … and you said the reality is that there is nothing you could do. The only way to get through this grief journey is to walk through it one step at a time. The Motherless Daughters Ministry is here to walk with you in your grief journey. We are a click away.

I see the need to add the scenario of tragic heartbreak of a marriage leaving you coping with not being able to give your mother the gift of being a grandmother before she passes away. That the last moments are twisted with the pain of betrayal of a spouse with your mother there to console you. Then cancer that takes her in two months in 2020. And you wonder did she neglect herself for your problems… with the hopes that she could still be a grandmother.

My mother passed on 7th August from cancer. She was 58, I’m 33. I went on sick from work to help my sister care for her and as much as I will cherish the time I got to spend with her, it was horrific watching her slowly fade. She was fiercely independent and wanted to die at home and helped plan every aspect of her funeral. But it was surreal, I felt like I was grieving before she had gone. The moment she passed, will forever be imprinted on my brain and I can’t process the fact that she was here, so present in my life, but now she’s gone. I feel stuck in limbo, trying to clear her house. My baby brother is only 20, has lost my mum and his father to cancer and now he’ll be living with me. I have so many regrets and so much guilt about times I put my friends or boyfriends before spending time with her. I’d do anything to have her back, healthy and pain free.

I am so sorry for your loss. What you are describing is anticipatory loss. Your grieving process began before she passed. It is so difficult to watch someone disappear before they leave you. Our prayers for you on your grief journey. We are right here if you need us.

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