Mom to three at 18

by Annie

I was only 18 when she passed away. I'm the eldest child of the family and my siblings were 7, 10 and 11 at the time. My mom was complaining of stomach pains. The doctors said there was nothing wrong with her and it was just stress over her brother who had passed away a year before. She was admitted and released from the hospital a few times within two weeks. It took 20 days until they said they had found a tumor in her colon and she needed to go into surgery for it. She travelled with my dad the next day to get treated in another country. And I was too scared to go with them. The next day, she passed away from heart failure before she even got into surgery.
I never even said goodbye, It all happened SO fast. Throughout her illness I had kept my distance.
This all happened almost 3 years ago and this is the first time I openly talk about it. At the age of 18 I found myself mothering my orphaned siblings, surrounded by shrieking relatives who couldn't be possibly feeling the pain I was feeling. I was dying on the inside and I was silent and put up a strong front.
She was such an amazing mother and I miss her every second of every day. I feel like my silence is making me sick and I am always emotionally drained. I need to talk to someone but I always feel so vulnerable when the subject comes up with family and friends.
I've been having recurring dreams about her and she's always alive but in my dream I'm keeping it a secret and letting people believe she's passed away.
I've struggled with raising the Kids, managing the house, finishing college, and taking care of my father and I know I've never grieved losing her. I don't think my siblings have either. I don't know how and I'm scared its a little too late. I'm scared and I feel guilty for not being there for her and lonely without her and naive for writing this even.

Comments for Mom to three at 18

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Jun 03, 2013
Dear Annie,
by: Pat in Missouri

You are an amazing person! Raising your 3 siblings, caring for your father, your home, and in college. WOW! No wonder you have not grieved. You have been so busy with caretaking that you haven't had time to grieve. What bothers me is that other family members did not offer more help. All of that responsiblity should not have been dumped on you. I can't tell, from your message, what the situation was with your father, but it sounds like either he was also ill or simply unable to support the family for whatever reason.

I am not the least bit surprised about your dreams. Your mind is still telling you that your mother is alive. I think you should seek counseling, or whatever resources you can find, from your college. Most colleges have a counseling department of some kind. Even if it is not the type of counseling to deal with grief, they should be able to give you the appropriate resources. It is never too late to deal with grief. In fact if you don't do it, it could hit you later in life with serious depression or other emotional or physical problems. You might also consider a grief support group. Yhey are usually free. You mentioned you did not think your siblings have grieved either. They might want to attend a support group with you. Doing it as a family would probably help.

There are also community resources to help caregivers. Again, your college might be able to offer resources, as well as your church or a local hospital or mental health agency. Have you applied for Social Security benefits for yourself and your siblings. If your mother worked, you might be entitled to her benefits, even if your father is still alive. Have you thought of adopting your siblings? This could open up more financial support for you. Your local child protective services agency should be able to give you answers about this.

You also should try to talk with other family members about helping you out by taking the other kids for certain periods of time, helping with the housework, or whatever needs to be done. You need time to take care of yourself and your own needs. You sound very responsible and intelligent, which means you know you need help. Since 3 years have passed, your younger siblings are also old enough to take on more responsibility themselves. Talk to them about sharing duties. Lastly, never feel guilty or niave. Just by writing, here, you have started to reach out. Just take it a little further. You cannot do all of this alone.

I send you good wishes and hugs. I hope you are able to find the resources you need. Do not continue to try to do this all alone. Pat

Jun 02, 2013
Mom to three at 18
by: Doreen U.K.

Annie I am sorry for your loss of your mom. There is nothing naïve about you. You are an articulate caring person. Looking after your siblings and raising them now and caring for the family whilst still trying to get an education is so very difficult. Make sure you don't wear yourself out. Delegate responsibilities to all your older siblings and train them up to do some chores. My mom did this to us. We all had chores to do. I was 14yrs. of age when given too much responsibility for caring for my family of 7 and it was hard as I had to get an education also. I became very tired. PACE yourself. Do the important work like cooking a meal and washing the clothes. Leave the cleaning of the house till the weekend and gather round all your siblings and give them responsibilities to help you with this. Rotate the jobs so each child does what is appropriate for their age and also it will teach them domestic skills. Have regular time once a week where you all gather together and talk about your feelings and any concerns. You will establish a stronger bond with each other. It will also help the home to run more efficiently. don't be afraid to ask for HELP. Try and find a grief counsellor who can support all of you in grief as you are all so young to have to face grief on your own. It is never too late to grieve so give yourself time to do this. You can also keep a journal and write out your thoughts and feelings. You can encourage your siblings to do this also. It is very therapeutic. You can structure your writing as if you were writing letters to your mom. This will also help you to heal from your loss. How is your father coping? and what is his new role in the family now? I know he has to hold down a job, but is he talking? is he supportive? If not he could be hurting to the point of locking up his feelings and may also benefit from seeing a grief counsellor. You will all get through this grief TOGETHER. It will just take a long time for you all to Heal from the loss of your Mom.

Jun 02, 2013
Mom to three at eighteen
by: Anonymous

Dear Annie
I can understand your pain, I cannot say how or even come close to think of what you are going through. It is Ok to feel the way you are feeling today; one thing do not hold the tent alone, seek a support group, go to a grief counselor with whom you feel comfortable. Grief is a very painful process and trust me you can't do this alone. do not give up your dreams, stay strong, if you need to take a short brake from school; do it until your mind gets clearer and you can go back. At times it is better to stay busy and focused. There is a lot to sort in your mind, do not put onto you more responsibilities than you can manage;give every one a task this includes your Dad, all of you are going through this and all of you are to work together to heal. I pray that you and your family can find the strength to pull forward and become a stronger together.

Jun 02, 2013
Wrong decision!
by: Carolina

You are a very strong young woman and would make your mom really proud. I don't think I would've had the strength to help raise 3 siblings after her death. My mom had her first heart attack when I was 19 and I took her to hospital and few weeks later she got a second chance at life. She was back to normal. Now I am 41 and my mom was 79 yrs old. She died 3 weeks ago and I was not able to save her this time. I think I may have been a better person when I was younger because I think I acted selfishly and may have been able to save her but hesitated taking her to hospital this time. Things happened so fast, I bearely understand how I missed the signs. I came home one day and she had been moving stuff and found her in her bed. She told me she felt really sick and had chest and back pain from moving some furniture and that she felt nausea because she had been eating too much chocolate that morning. My mom had bad arthritis so I let myself believe her pains were from that and not a heart attack. I was a fool! She then vomited and I said oh good she is only having indigestion. Another mistake. I had asked her to go to hospital and first time she said yes, I should have ran with her but my selfish ways told me to wait. After vomiting she felt better and I stayed with her that night and kept asking her if she wanted to go to hospital but she said no. My ignorance cost my mothers life! Four days later, she died of a massive heart attack! If I had taken her to hospital that first day, she might be alive today! I have to live with the guilt that I may have let my mother die by not taking her to hospital. I can bearly live with myself. I have a 6 yr old little girl who I need to raise and she sees me crying everyday. I know it's not fair to her but I can't stop crying. The guilt is killing me! You should feel proud because you are a strong woman and had no control over your mom's death. My dad died of lung cancer when I was 8 yrs old and my mom was a strong woman for raising me too! It is never late to grieve because we will always miss our mothers. Your family is blessed to have you and someday you too I'm sure will make a wonderful mother. God bless you!

Jun 02, 2013
I understand
by: Same situation

Dear Annie, My heart goes out to you.

When my mom passed I too had to be the anchor of the family as I have disabled siblings too.

I know how difficult it is to get the practical help amongst the many who say `they have been through it' and yet have grown up families who are independent - and are not at such a tender age.

Firstly, please try and talk about your grief. I do not have any confidence in grief counsellors - but there are others. Perhaps a teacher, friends parents or religious minister.

Next try to summon help from a friends or their parents tell them you would be so grateful for their support. You sound like you have done such a wonderful job up to now, others must be secretly admiring your courage, please let them know you sometimes need emotional and practical help.

Hoping your grief gets easier to handle - it is never easy - my mom died unexpectadly too and I know the shock is always raw.

Love, from someone older but who can empathise with your situation.

Jun 01, 2013
Mom to 3---annie
by: Anonymous

Annie---When I read posts on this site there is one thing in common---we all have broken hearts. I lost my wonderful husband and you lost your dear Mom. You were given a huge task to care for your siblings and family and finish your education--you sound like you have done everything possible to hold it all together after this devastating loss. This site and many other facts on grief all say this : we must grieve when we lose our loved ones. I am 6 months into grieving and I can tell you it is not easy or fair or a structured course to follow. What you are feeling must be acknowledged---when you need to cry--you must cry. God knows all about you and your situation and while I do not understand God's ways I still trust Him and love Him and pray for His guidance in this cruel road we are on. Open up to your siblings and talk about your Mom

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