Elizabeth hadn’t heard from her daughter in years. The rift between them started shortly after her daughter’s marriage. There were signs when her daughter and husband were dating that something was not right. But Elizabeth couldn’t put her finger on it. The harder she tried to figure it out, the further her daughter became. She suspected he was abusive but there was no evidence to prove it and when she confronted her daughter, that was the last time they spoke. The arrival of Mother’s Day yet again without any communication from her daughter sent Elizabeth into a depression.
This is Amanda’s first Mother’s Day and she is so overwhelmed with grief. Several months ago, her baby girl died unexpectedly due to an undiagnosed medical condition. She was only three months old. Just seeing the cards and flowers in the store celebrating Mother’s Day drives her mad. She is so angry, frustrated, confused, sad, and devastated. She can’t stop feeling or crying. It is like someone ripped open her chest, stole her heart, and leaving her unable to move, breathe, or live. She would rather spend the day locked in her closet away from everyone.
The last year of negotiating the divorce agreement was so difficult that Miranda hardly knew what she was signing. It wasn’t until the week before Mother’s Day that she realized she did not have the kids that weekend or even part of the day. She asked her ex to exchange weekends, but he refused. When she pointed out that it was Mother’s Day, he laughed and said the kids would be with him and his girlfriend. She was going to be their “new mom”. Miranda was hurt, furious, and disgusted by his actions. Nonetheless, the realization that she would be without her kids on Mother’s Day sent her further into a depression.
For many women, Mother’s Day is the hardest day of the year. Perhaps you are one of the women mentioned above or you have another story that makes this day one of the hardest of the year. Just the mention of it brings to the surface the emotions of disappointment, deep sadness, distress, dejection, and despair. Despite efforts to avoid churches, shops, and restaurants on Mother’s Day, the heaviness in your heart is still there. Here are some suggestions for survival.
- Remember it is one day. Mother’s Day is one day out of 365 days in the year. It does not need to be celebrated or even acknowledged. Instead, choose a different day if there needs to be a celebration with your mother or someone else. Sometimes it is easier to deal with the actual day if the celebrating is not linked to this day of sadness.
- Keep it in perspective. Much like other holidays which exist for the purpose of remembering the lives that have been lost such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day, Mother’s Day will be a memorial of sorts. It is a day to remember what was lost or never even gained in the first place. But just as the anniversary of a loved one who past brings back memories and feelings, over time, the emotions won’t be so intense.
- Embrace the feelings. Rather than rejecting the uncomfortable feelings, embrace them. It should hurt that a child is not there on Mother’s Day. This is an indication of attachment between mother and child which is natural and beautiful. The grief felt demonstrates there is a bond. Rest in the sadness, hurt, and pain, it shows there is love.
- Take some time for yourself. Reserve a portion of this day to be alone with your thoughts and feelings. Don’t take the entire day to do this or pretend that you don’t need to do it at all, instead take care of yourself and give yourself the gift of remembrance. This is a good time to journal thoughts, allow the tears to flow, and meditate/pray. Then spend the rest of the day surrounded by people who love you and are sensitive to your feelings.
- Be true to you. Be honest. If you really want to go somewhere on Mother’s Day, speak up; if you don’t, say so. If you are sad, don’t pretend that you are not. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and for others instead of assuming they already know what you are thinking or feeling. Then communicate those expectations kindly to minimize the hurt feelings later.
Even if the loss occurred many years ago, there might be a sudden resurgence in emotions compared to previous years. While the intensity may be less than the initial Mother’s Day, for some reason, this year hits harder. This is perfectly normal. Take a moment to reflect on your life and see if there is any new circumstance lately in a relationship or your environment. The increased anxiety might be misplaced anxiety over new things that have not been properly addressed.
Everyone has hard days during the year that are more difficult than others to get through. Mother’s Day seems a bit crueler because others appear happy. Remember, you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings, many other women feel the exact same way.