Grieving woman sits on a bed.

When Mother’s Day Hurts

Mother’s Day. The one day of the year where everyone from the neighbor you rarely see, to the advertisements on every media outlet within eyesight or earshot sings thanks and praises for the incredible feats of generosity, love, and nurturing mothers provide each day. Across the nation, this day is presumably filled with brunch or breakfast in bed, handmade gifts, or other personal traditions. But. How do we get through this day, Mother’s Day, if merely thinking the word mother inflicts heart-wrenching pain. Just as many people across the nation celebrate motherhood, many grieve the loss of it. All around us, there are people grieving the loss of their mother to death, those grieving the mother they never knew or wish they had, those grieving their time as a mother after the loss of a child, those grieving motherhood as they’d imagined it after discovering their infertility – the grief that comes on Mother’s Day takes many forms. Just as each person is unique, so is their loss. Knowing this though, we must also understand that the ways in which we move forward despite our losses are equally unique. Emotions range and plans change – and that’s normal. Knowing this, it’s important that we treat ourselves and our loved ones with respect and kindness this Mother’s Day. Whether the pain of grief lingers around you this Mother’s Day, or someone you love, my hope is that you find solace and support in these lines.

If you have been looking for one, or even if you haven’t, this is your sign: your feelings matter more. Your feelings, your grief, your needs – they matter more than a brunch. They matter more than the annual family gathering. They matter more than any previously discussed plan. Whether the thought of Mother’s Day makes you want to do anything to keep your mind away from that which brings you pain, or makes you want to sit in your grief under the covers and resurface only when the day is done, you have the right to carry out that plan. If distraction is your choice, go for it. Focus on your friends, your other family members, other incredible women in your life, other children you may have. Celebrate the things in your life that bring you joy and avoid the incessant advertisements and themed Lifetime movies. How you handle the day is your choice. If you want to take the day to remember who was lost, do that. Spend some time in a special place, do something that would make them smile, write a letter or email updating the person on everything that has happened since they were lost, or share with someone else something that your lost loved one shared with you. How you handle the day is your choice.

Now, don’t get me wrong, distraction and remembrance aren’t mutually exclusive. Often times, on special days like this, we can become torn between life and loss. But the truth is, grief doesn’t require a choice; it doesn’t have to be an or. In fact, the best way to spend Mother’s Day for you may be to make space for and. Make time to remember and honor your loss, but spend time celebrating what remains in your life as well. Above all though, give yourself grace. Contrary to popular belief, grief doesn’t exist in stages, and grief does not simply end. We don’t just “move on” from our losses, rather we move forward despite them. But as we move forward, we carry a piece of that which we lost with us forever. To quote Marvel’s supremely intelligent superhero Vision, “What is grief if not love persisting?” Grief looks different from person to person, day by day, and even hour by hour – give yourself the grace to experience your own grief journey without expecting yourself to live out someone else’s. You deserve that grace. And, in the spirit of being kind to ourselves this Mother’s Day and every day, I encourage you to practice this affirmation with me:

“I am safe. I am not alone in my grief. I have the right to spend this day in a way that respects my emotions. I have the right to change my mind as my emotions and needs change. I am grateful for the happiness the person I lost brought to my life. I am grateful for the lessons I learned through them. I am grateful for those who remain in my life and bring me joy. I do not have to choose between life and death. I can love both those who are physical and those who are not. My grief is just as unique as the person I lost. My grief journey is my own and I give myself the grace to experience it as it comes.”