Features, Writing Archive

When Mother’s Day Is A Day Not of Celebration, But Day of Grief

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a celebration of the mothers in our lives who not only gave birth to us but raised us to be the individuals we are today.

Mother’s Day has roots going back to 1868, when social activist Anna Jarvis sought to create a day to honor mothers and reunite families divided during the Civil War.   Today, Mother’s Day is a commercialized holiday that, according to the research firm Statista, plans to bring in 28 billion dollars for retailers, services, and restaurants in 2021. The average family is planning to spend $220 for the mothers in their family.

But for some, Mother’s Day is not exactly a celebration.  Instead, Mother’s Day is a day that reminds them of the absence of their mother from their life.

This is the case for my sister and me after losing our mother to cancer when we were in our early twenties.  Each Mother’s Day is a reminder of all that she has missed in our lives, such as graduations, weddings, and other celebratory milestones.

Mother’s Day can also be difficult for mothers who have dealt with infertility or lost children or those who were abused or neglected by their mothers.  Mother’s Day is a challenge for these individuals because while many celebrate, they struggle with sorrow, especially today.  This is especially true with individuals who are struggling more than ever after losing their mothers from the recent pandemic.  In fact, USA today recently wrote an article about the challenge’s holidays such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day pose because of those who’ve lost loved ones to COVID-19.

For those who associate Mother’s Day as a day of grief and sorrow, it’s essential to know that you are not alone if this holiday is a challenge for you.  Nor should you feel as if Mother’s Day is a day that you need to be celebratory just because that is what everyone else on your social media feed is projecting.

Instead, use Mother’s Day as a day to acknowledge the grief in your life and that absence you feel.

For example, if you had a loving relationship with your mother and she has now departed, find ways to honor the special relationship you both shared.  And if you experienced neglect or abuse from your mother, recognize that it is okay to share with others how this day makes you feel.

If you associate Mother’s Day with pain and loss, spend time surrounded by those in your life who understand the pain you feel and do activities that bring you joy.  Additionally, spend time in reflection, whether through prayer, being out in nature, engaging in artwork, or journaling.  And if you feel that it is not helpful to be on social media, then stay off social media on Mother’s Day if need be.

“When we’re grieving, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is find support in people who understand us, people who love us, people who are going to be there for us no matter what,” shared bereavement coordinator Kiri Meyer in a recent article about Mother’s Day and grief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

And for those who may never have associated Mother’s Day with loss or pain or mixed emotions, please understand that not everyone is celebrating on Mother’s Day.  If you know someone who has lost a mother, never had a loving relationship with their mother, or for whatever personal reason struggles on Mother’s Day, reach out to them.  Give them a call or even send them flowers or a card acknowledging that while they may not have a mother figure in their life or be a mother themselves, they do have you in their life, and you care and love them.

“I guess by now I should know enough about loss to realize that you never really stop missing someone  – you just learn to live around the huge gaping hole of their absence,” writes author Alyson Noel.

Many companies are starting to recognize that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be a day of pain and hardship for many and are adjusting how they advertise products and services on these holidays. And that is something which is very important.  Because while we may celebrate on Mother’s or Father’s Day, others associate these days with grief.

Yes, Mother’s Day is a day for many to celebrate the women who gave birth to them and raised them.  But Mother’s Day should be a day where we can also recognize any woman, whether it be a teacher, sibling, friend, or neighbor, who nurtured and cared for us.