My mommy died last week at the age of 91. Technically she was my mother-in-law, but in my mind and my heart, she had been my mommy for 33 years.

Hilda crop 120314My real mom died when I was 36, so my wife’s mother (Hilda) had been my mommy for almost as long as my real mom.

The term “mommy” came naturally to me. That’s how I felt about her. My wife Shelly thought the term was a bit childish and didn’t like to hear me say it. But Hilda loved it so I kept using it.

I didn’t have growing-up experiences with her as
Shelly did

There is a bond you form with your mom from birth—when nursing and then the hundreds of moments in the course of every day as you grow through the toddler and adolescent stages. And of course there are the thousands of interactions we have with our moms throughout school and thereafter. Those interactions are unlike any we have with anyone else in our lives, even our dads.

I obviously didn’t have those experiences like Shelly and her brother, Jerry, did. But what I did have was a relationship for over 33 years with a woman who loved me unconditionally. In her eyes, I could do no wrong. In her eyes, I was the smartest, best looking, most wonderful guy there was. In her words, she loved me (and most other people) “like a fire.”

She was never too old to try to improve her life. My mommy was one of the first people to eliminate beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process almost 30 years ago and she took and then re-took the Lefkoe Freedom Course. She wouldn’t stop telling me how she had stopped giving meaning to what her husband (of 71 years) said to her. (He passed away three months before her.)

She was up for anything and age never slowed her down. Even into her 80s she was the most energetic person on a dance floor.

The one quality everyone spoke of at her memorial service was that she was unique. She was still telling dirty jokes at 91. She said what was on her mind and was never concerned about political correctness.

She wanted me in her family

I first met her in an est training she was taking as a participant and in which I was assisting, about 35 years ago. (est, which ultimately became The Forum, was a transformational training.) There was something about me she liked, because immediately after the training she told her unmarried daughter Shelly: “I have just met the man for you.” Shelly asked: “Who is it? What’s his name?”

Hilda replied: “His name is Morty Lefkoe and I met him in the est training.” Shelly had also been assisting at est at the time and knew who I was. She said to her mom with a scowl: “Not a chance. I know him. Not my type.”

But after my mommy-to-be told me about Shelly, I asked her out several times over the next couple of months. Shelly refused on each occasion. And then I got lucky: I was working in public relations at the time and representing the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Union (the New York City police union). Shelly needed something from the police for a project she was working on and a mutual friend suggested she ask me to help. So when she called me and asked me if I could provide an introduction, I agreed to do so on the condition that she go out with me. I really liked her and was not above blackmail to get a date with Shelly.

The rest is history. Six months later we were married. I tell this story because Hilda wanted me to join her family long before I actually married her daughter.

They didn’t bury my mommy

I could go on and on with stories of how wonderful this woman was. But here’s the point: As I looked at her in the casket and saw her lifeless body lying there, I had this deep experience (I want to emphasize, this was not merely a thought) that not only wasn’t that “body” my mommy, but that “body” had never been my mommy.

My mommy had always been my experience of her—how I felt about. Yes, with her death I would no longer have new experiences, but I already had 34 years worth of incredible experiences that I could recall whenever I wanted to.

And if my mommy was, for me, my experience of her, then I was really losing very little with her passing, because her death had no effect on my experience of her. I had heard people say things like that before, but as I stood looking at her, it became real on a very deep and profound level that they would not be burying my mommy. She had always lived in my experience and always would. She was never her “body” for me, so not having it around was not such a tragedy for me. It is easier for me to focus on what I have and will always have rather than on what I don’t have.

When I tell people that it is possible to stop giving meaning to events, thereby preventing negative emotions and emotional suffering, the most common question is: Do you mean that if a loved one died you’d feel nothing? Because I hadn’t had a really close loved one die since I had developed that skill, I could only answer theoretically: If you don’t give the death a meaning, you will not suffer. But I really didn’t know how I would feel.

Grieving is not necessarily suffering

There are many definitions for grief. If grief means mental suffering or mental anguish, then I have not grieved. If grief means sadness, especially over losing a loved one, then I have had moments of grief, especially when I saw my wife and two children grieving. I got choked up and tears came to my eyes a few times. But for the most of the days preceding and following her funeral I kept thinking of how much I loved my mommy and how much she loved me, and I recalled random experiences during our 34 year relationship.

I’m not saying you should not grieve when you lose a loved one. There is no “right” or “wrong” in situations like that. If you experience grief, then experience it fully and express it. You should do what feels right for you.

I just wanted to tell you how I responded when I lost my mommy, in case my experience is useful to you.


Thanks for reading my blog. Please post your questions or comments on my experience of my mommy’s passing. Disagreement is as welcome as agreement. Your comments add value for thousands of readers. I love to read them all and I will respond to as many as I can.

If you want others to improve their lives as you have with the information on my posts, please share this blog post with them by using the buttons located below.

If you haven’t yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to our interactive online belief-unlearning program where you can unlearn several limiting beliefs free.

You also can find out about Natural Confidence, an interactive digital program that enables you to unlearn 19 of the most common beliefs, which cause some of the most common behavioral and emotional problems that plague us.

Copyright © 2014 Morty Lefkoe


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  6. chrys December 6, 2014 at 12:39 am - Reply

    Thanks Morty for your honest insight. I have buried two life partners, my mum, and two mother-in-laws and one fav. uncle. I have the attitude that death is part of life and there are no guarantees, you can only be thankful (or not) for what was. BUT that has not changed the fact that when your partner dies they takes with them half your memories, the other half of the personality that is your balance, your helpmate – in a practical sense, the person you cuddle. The universe can supply (you can attract) others into your/my life as a continuum to life but cannot really take the place of the essence that was unique. Sometimes I am sad for what is no longer and other times I am happy for what was. c.

  7. James December 4, 2014 at 10:09 am - Reply

    Condolences for your loss

    Love & gratitude


  8. Aline December 4, 2014 at 12:29 am - Reply

    Thank you Morty for sharing your experience. It reminded me so much of when my own Mum passed away, 14 months ago.
    My son and I found her on her kitchen floor. I had had a fear of death for as long as I can remember, and had never seen a dead person since my grandmother died in the early 1980s. That was in her casket.

    To find my Mum’sbody lying there was a shock and unexpected. I knew she had gone as soon as I saw her.

    But my overwhelming feeling really was, “She’s not there.” Her soul, her spirit had left and as you so beautifully remind us, it lives in my memory of the experiences I had with her.

    I was also reminded of something my brother-in-law had said to my son after his grandfather had passed away. My son, his uncle and his father had been reminiscing about Papou. My brother-in-law mentioned the word “memorial” and my son asked why they were planning a memorial service.
    His uncle said no, they weren’t, there was no need, as they’d just had one. His view was that any time you remembered the loved on who had passed away, you were in a sense honouring their memory in a beautiful and spontaneous way.
    Thank you again Morty for your “memorial” of your Mommy.

  9. Elaine December 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Thank you so very much for a beautiful sharing which touched me. I want to share two things. One is something I came across in the last two weeks — Usually many of us think of the soul or spirit [if you have that belief] as within the body and that the soul leaves the body at death. However, it was suggested that it is the other way around and the body is really inside the soul. We see that radiance of soul in someone who is in love. Energy workers are also aware of the aura around the body. For me, it gave me a new slant on death. It was like the body leaves but the person’s essence is still in existence – I just don’t see it physically, but I can feel it and know it, just like an aura.

    Secondly, in nature we see death every fall, but new life comes forth in the spring. So are we looking a death or birth? They are really one. Every death involves some kind of birth, so I often think that the family who accompanies the dying member of their family are really accompanying them in the labor pains and the birthing process to new life, or Eternal life [for those who believe that].

  10. LaurenLL December 3, 2014 at 11:59 am - Reply

    A powerful and intimate post and I’m sorry for the death of your’s and Shelley’s mommy. When my daughter died at the age of 3-1/2, I thought I handed her death “well”, however one interprets that word. I ended up going into counselling when I dropped into a depression I that scared me because I couldn’t “not be depressed.” Over the years, I couldn’t talk about her without choking up and/or falling apart. I truly suffered. For economic reasons, my husband and I didn’t put up a headstone for her. Then, the family joined together and helped pay for a headstone. I arranged a headstone ceremony and read a poem I wrote about how her life helped lift mine up, then asked family members to share their experiences. It was a beautiful, warm, and uplifting gathering and the first time I didn’t “grieve” for her loss, but rather shared her life. Learning not to give meaning to death means to remember and cherish how much that person meant to me while they lived. If someone enriches my life, then their death is an occasion to grieve their physical loss and the absence of their presence in my life. I’m coming more and more to respect my feelings and emotions and the more I do, the more I open up into my lifelong passion of writing. Thanks for the memorial to your mommy, the telling enriches my life as well.
    Love and Light,

  11. Michael Rose December 3, 2014 at 9:59 am - Reply

    Morty, thank you for sharing your feelings.
    When a person I’m close to or pet of mine dies, I take comfort in the following words from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:
    “And ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

  12. Katie December 3, 2014 at 9:21 am - Reply

    Thank you Morty for this little inside, it gave me a new and better perspective when you loose a loved one. I will have to take a u-turn now on my grieving (excuse the word) practice. I have lost a lot of loved ones like my husband to suicide and then my dogs, they were also dearly loved. Thanks again


  13. Jeff Wolf December 3, 2014 at 9:05 am - Reply


  14. Marilyn December 3, 2014 at 8:31 am - Reply

    What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing such a personal and meaningful experience with us.

    When my father died a few years ago, I felt freed from the angst that plagued me when he was living. He and I didn’t have the kind of relationship I wanted (for many reasons) but after he passed I felt a love and understanding for him that I hadn’t felt before. I also believed he could now really see me and appreciate me without all the baggage that kept him from being the man I think he wanted to be. Somehow, I felt and still feel more connected to him than I did when he was here with me.

    I suppose all our experiences of loss have both common and unique qualities but recognizing the body that is being buried is not our loved one is a truth that can give all of us comfort.

    Thanks again for all you give,

  15. Zeya December 3, 2014 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Hi Morty, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. Much appreciated!

    I too have never experienced a death of a close family or friend. Here are some thoughts that I hope I am still able to remember when I am faced with the death of a loved one:

    – Everybody dies.
    – Do we question the day when a person is born? Does it make sense to question the day a person dies?
    – Dying is a part of living. As Karl says above, it is “being part of the cycle of life”
    – We grieve because we will no longer have the experiences that we so enjoyed with that person.
    – We also grieve because we did not fully enjoy experiences with the person who died and now feel that we should have said or done this or that but will not be able to do so. So I need to be more grateful for my time I have with my loved ones.
    – Experiencing death also makes us realize that I too will die one day. As Brendon Burchard says, “At the end of our life we will ask 3 questions: Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter?” We can ask those questions now and see where we stand if death was to come upon us now. If we are not content with the answers we know hat to do.
    – Body is just a vessel for the essence of life that makes us who we are. At death, this essence separates from the body. What happens to it afterwards can be debated forever. What really matters is what we do while we are alive. What happens afterwards, I will figure that out when that time comes.

    It was good for me to write this out. Thanks for reading and have a great day!

    Love, Zeya

  16. Leigh Ann Reedy December 3, 2014 at 5:10 am - Reply

    Thank you Morty.
    I have found that when a loved one dies, & loses their “place” in our living experiences – we have a choice.
    1- we can be upset & lifeless ourselves & allow our mental & physical selves to deteriorate, causing others to suffer from our inabilty to function as before.
    2- as you say…we can replay our experiences in our heart & mind & feel honored & priviledged to have had the opportunity to share this life together.

    The deceased one held their “place” in the network of our lives. That “place” fills in by “holding” each other’s hands to close the gap.
    If “holding” each other up is about honored closure, then if we chose to flounder & cease to flourish, then the gap becomes a black hole, sucking life energy out of the remaining network of loved ones.
    I state my observations upon the loss of both my wonderful parents.
    My heart goes out to you & your family.
    I feel certain you will all be able to choose feelings that help each other fill the “gap” with honor & love & appreciation of lives well spent with experiences that will last your lifetimes in the heart & in the memories.
    Thank you again. The Lefkoe Method of free videos helped me to realize this perspective.
    Best of every day to you,
    Leigh Ann Reedy

  17. Cristyna December 3, 2014 at 5:10 am - Reply

    Dear Morty,

    At first I thank You, for thinking to all of us even in these life moments
    which are not so easy to across so easy.

    Your post it is wonderful and now , at this time on my Life I also understand
    much more about our life journey.

    Indeed , remembering all nice memories which we have experienced with
    dear persons on our life , it is like we keep that spirit alive and yes, I believe
    that every experience had a sense and with that thought-w never loose
    something because everything it is within us and it is eternal.

    Thank you very much again and I cannot wait that moment to fallow one
    of your excellent courses , because I deeply believe that clearing up our limiting beliefs
    have a string impact and benefit on our Life.


  18. Danielle Poznantek December 3, 2014 at 4:15 am - Reply

    Thanks Morty.
    Your comments are always deeply touching and transformating me.

    Love to you, Shelly and your hole family

  19. marina maï December 3, 2014 at 4:00 am - Reply

    Thank’s, sweet soul, for sharing so naturally and spontaneously your experience. I fully agree with you and had previously the same experience and realization with the death of a beloved one. blessings to you and your family ! love. marina

  20. Karl December 3, 2014 at 3:07 am - Reply

    Hi Morty,

    this is another bold and courageous blog post. I really appreaciate it. Thank you.

    Personally I experienced the loss of grandparents and other more distant relatives as an enriching process for me. Like the bodily distractions / imperfections got out of the way and the true essence remained. And this is so much more than I could realize while I was interacting with them alive. Like they could only express so little of their infinite personality through the limitations of the human form. And there suddenly is no longer a seperation by time and space, with the speed of thought I can consult with them and get their imaginary advice or whatever…

    This for sure teaches also to treasure each moment we got to spend with people, especially the people we love, by being conscious and in the now, so that more of these rich and valuable memories can be accessed later. And to do our very best to get rid of the “fighting” parts. Though there are valuable lessons there, too. Just learn them and move on.

    So, thank you again for relating your experiences

    Good luck to you, in whatever you do


    PS: Then there is this thing of death being part of the cycle of life, a part we accepted with birth, after which we go back to where we came from. The reality of life. Nothing to be bothered about. Not two, as the ancient sages might say.

  21. Annie December 3, 2014 at 2:32 am - Reply

    I love you Morty. You always amaze me. Challenge me. Thanks for sharing and my best to you. Shelly and family

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