My mom died when I was 19, and for many years after her death, the national holiday that I hated more than any other was Mother’s Day. I’m not sure which was worse: the grief or the anxiety. I hated making people feel uncomfortable, so when asked those inevitable questions like What did you get your mom? or What are you doing for Mother’s Day?, I would scramble to think of a cheerful way to inform them that my mother was dead. Yes, that went about as well as you might imagine.
These days it’s supposed to be my turn as the center of attention. What am I doing? What did I get? Did I have a nice Mother’s Day? But the transition from grieving daughter to feted mother on Mother’s Day was not an easy one for me.
In the beginning, it felt wrong to be celebratory. I was so used to feeling sad and anxious that it felt unnatural to be happy. The one thing that finally helped me find some comfort was the discovery that I was not alone.
Reading books like Motherless Daughters and Motherless Mothers felt a little like jumping into a giant pit of grief, but I also felt so relieved — almost empowered — to discover that I wasn’t the only person constantly trying to remember these scattered bits of conversation with my mother about breastfeeding or struggling with an overwhelming sense of the finiteness of life.
People struggle with Mother’s Day for all sorts of different reasons. I remember reading stories from women struggling with infertility about their grief and sadness on Mother’s Day. Reading their stories made me realize that plenty of people weren’t reveling in a fairy tale of perfection on Mother’s Day. The isolation that my 20 year old self had experienced began to slowly fade away.
The truth is that many of us will struggle with Mother’s Day at one time or another for one reason or another. I have friends who have since lost their own mothers. Some of us are now experiencing Mother’s Day as a single parent. I suspect that if at some point along the way your experience with this day becomes painful and complicated, your feelings about it may always be painful and complicated. I know mine are. And that’s okay. You don’t need to be in complete bliss on Mother’s Day. Nor do you need to go into hiding. Sometimes when we speak up and share those honest and complex feelings, we learn that we’re not alone.