After experiencing the death of someone close to you, holidays, celebrations, and milestones are no longer the same. Each smile, laughter, kiss and hug is enjoyable and pleasurable and includes a long sigh of, “I wish she was here experiencing this with me.” My mother died the day before my sixteenth birthday, and twelve years later, my son, her first grandchild, was born. Since my mother’s death, Mother’s Day is one of the many reminders that she is dead. As a child, I chose to avoid this day and all other holidays, without much success.
Being a mother without a mother, there have been many grief triggers. When I hear a friend share how supportive her mother has been; how she is able to ask her mother questions about motherhood; how there is now a new closeness with her mother; and how much her mother loves being a grandmother, I am reminded these are things my mother and I will never experience. This is another loss I now need to grieve. I remember my mother sharing with me how I would not understand the love she had for me until I became a mother myself. I can now understand, but this mutual bond of motherhood cannot be shared between the two of us. She is not here to tell me how I am doing as a mother, to tell me how proud she is of me, to tell me how much she loves being a grandparent. Grief never goes away —the intensity changes, but it will always be here.
As an adult, I now have the insight that avoidance does not work, and I choose instead to acknowledge and embrace the pain. This change in my perspective occurred as I increasingly made an active effort to do more of what was working. I also made a conscious choice to make meaning of my loss; that is, I learned the benefit of symbolically bringing my mother into festivities and into my everyday life in healthy, helpful ways. Some ways I choose to bring my loss into my celebrations include sharing memories, preparing a favorite food, and displaying a picture of my mother. These activities do not bring her back, but they do help me cope with the uncomfortable feelings of grief.
I have the privilege of being a member of The Elizabeth Hospice where I learn about and explore my own grief process while I continue to learn how to support others. Each day at The Elizabeth Hospice, I have the honor of supporting others through their grief. I am so glad we offer counseling, support groups, and remembrance programs, such as Wings of Hope, to give people like me, who are grieving the loss of someone special, practical tools and compassionate support to help us face the future.
My grief changes as I develop, grow, and have new experiences. Today, I know I can choose to feel sadness and happiness, instead of only one emotion at a time. On Mother’s Day, I can acknowledge the concurrent feelings of, “I wish she was here” and “I am happy to be honored as a mother.”
For all the mothers without mothers, it is okay to celebrate our strength, our devotion, our feelings, and our courage. It is okay to feel sad and happy on this day that honors all mothers, including motherless mothers.