Mamas of all kinds deserve a day to be recognized and (hopefully!) pampered. But what if all you feel like doing on Mother’s Day is crawling into a hole and ignoring the outside world because you’ve lost someone? Maybe you’ve experienced the loss of your mother or mother figure, maybe you’ve suffered pregnancy, infant, or neonatal loss. Perhaps you’ve lost a child, young or adult. Maybe you haven’t yet conceived and are struggling to become a mother. If you can relate to any or all of these, I hear you. I am here for you. I am holding space for you. I too grieve on Mother’s Day.
At 26, I lost my mom to stage IV colon cancer. She was only 47. (I wrote an essay for Mrs. Nipple on that here). The idea of my first Mother’s Day without her made me want to crawl into my room and not come out until Monday. While that would have been a-okay, a friend of mine who had lost her dad knew what to do for me. She made a plan with me and kept it. Together, we spent the day in the park hanging out. That night, I had a blind date scheduled – that date happened to be the one where I met my husband. (I believe in signs and for me, this was a big one from my mom.) There was no mention of Mother’s Day flowers, brunches, gifts, or any traditions whatsoever. We acknowledged my grief, gave it some breathing room, and did our best to enjoy the day. That year, I needed to avoid all the stuff related to Mother’s Day. If you feel that is what you need, do it. Avoid anything that reminds you of the loss(es) you experienced. Know that while the grief will remain, it will dull over time without fully disappearing.
Ideally, we get to a place where two feelings coexist. Society often teaches us that we can be either happy or sad. Reality shows us that feelings exist on a spectrum, and that grief and joy can, and do, coexist quite harmoniously. That is where I am nearly eight years after losing my mom. I feel so grateful for motherhood, my children, my family, and the incredible friendships and lessons that have come to me because of motherhood. But I also feel a deep sense of grief that my mom doesn’t get to be here to celebrate her motherhood along with mine. And for the last 4 years since I have become a mama myself, I have learned to embrace the range of emotions I feel around this time of year. I am mostly able to both celebrate and grieve at once. But it took some time to get here, and some years are still tougher than others. It’s to be expected. If you’re not there yet, please give yourself some grace and some space.
My hope in sharing this with you is to normalize not feeling celebratory on Mother’s Day. It is also to normalize feeling both joy/gratitude/happiness and grief at once. For those of you who have experienced loss, you are allowed to feel jealous, angry, sad, or any array of feelings while also being able to celebrate those around you who are mothers, haven't suffered losses, or whose mothers are still around. You are also allowed to ask for space and enforce boundaries that protect your heart and mental health. If that means avoiding Mother’s Day altogether, your loved ones will understand. Ask for what you need from those who love and support you. If you need a text check in, a friend to spend the day with you, or if you want to be included in the festivities, make it known to those lucky enough to be in your world. There is no shame in experiencing loss and grief. You are not weak or a “Debbie Downer” for feeling sad on a day that reminds you of your loss, of who is not here. Eventually, you will find what works for you when it comes to holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. But like most aspects of life, it takes trial and error, resilience, and above all, it takes time. Remember that what works for everyone else might not work for you. Everyone grieves and celebrates in their own way. And please know, that you are not alone in this - I am with you too!