Maribeth Wilder Doerr

Shades of Healing ~ Creating a Wholehearted Life

Mother’s Day Isn’t Always Roses and Cheesy Cards . . .

on May 8, 2012

I originally wrote this article for Inner Child Magazine. I would LOVE for you to pop over there and read through the May issue. Lots of good stuff! Here on my blog, I’ve added a few personal comments to this version. . .

My Mom, Marie Wilder
May 14, 1928 – July 30, 2011

Over 46 countries honor mothers with a special day with the US as well as several other countries celebrating Mother’s Day in May. Anna Jarvis is credited with creating Mother’s Day as a national holiday in the United States. She lobbied tirelessly for years, and finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day a national holiday to be held each year on the second Sunday of May. Since then, it’s become a Hallmark delight, and why not? Mothers sacrifice a lot to raise their children. They deserve this honor, and it can be a fun way for a family to reconnect and enjoy each other.

There are times, however, when Mother’s Day is simply painful, and it’s important for the celebratory world to understand that it’s not always roses and cheesy cards for everyone.  For example . . .

  • Perhaps your mother has died
  • Perhaps your baby or child has died
  • Perhaps you have been trying to have a baby and haven’t been able to conceive
  • Perhaps your wife has died and you’re helping your children grieve for their mom
  • Perhaps someone you loved as a mother/grandmother has died
  • Perhaps you’ve never known your mom or you’re estranged from her
  • Perhaps you know someone experiencing some of these issues

From the time I lost my first baby until I had a healthy child in my arms, I went through nine Mother’s Days without any acknowledgement that I was a mom – and I most certainly was even though those babies were not here with me. Those were painful days. Now I’ve come what feels like full circle as I’m about to experience my first Mother’s Day without my mom. It’s different and yet it’s the same – everywhere I go there are huge displays of Mother’s Day cards and suggested gifts in the stores . . .

It’s a challenge when the rest of the world is celebrating something as universal as motherhood and your heart is so tender. The days leading up to Mother’s Day with all the in-your-face advertising can feel overwhelming and is such a reminder of what you’ve lost and can’t have. You may be wondering how you’re going to get through this day.

First, take a deep breath and realize that however you feel, it’s okay and you’re okay. There’s nothing wrong with you if you want to pretend this day doesn’t exist . . . or if you want to celebrate it with everything you have. There is no right or wrong way to feel; feelings just are and they don’t define you. As Bridget Pilloud reminds us, “Don’t try to make FACTS out of your feelings.”

Secondly, be aware that you do have a choice in what you do on Mother’s Day and even in how you feel. You can’t have your loved one(s) back but you do have choices for the day.

It helps to be prepared. Waking up on Mother’s Day morning wondering what to do or blindly following someone else’s plans for you will breed a lot of discomfort (and not just for you!). Spend some time, even if it’s just a few minutes, getting still and thinking about what you really want for this day. What do you hope will happen? You can’t have your mom, child, grandma, wife, other significant woman back but you can plan a day that both soothes your soul and acknowledges your feelings. You do that by getting clear on what you want for this day.

If you’re like me, you may be worried that doing what YOU want is selfish and everyone will be upset with you. Forget about pleasing the masses, and let go of that inner voice that says you HAVE TO (fill in the blank with whatever you think that is). Taking care of yourself is taking steps towards healing and this is what your family and friends ultimately want anyway.

Ask yourself if spending time with your family and friends on Mother’s Day would feel wonderful and comforting or does the thought set your teeth on edge? Perhaps your heart wants some solitude with a latte and a place to journal your thoughts. Maybe it would feel lovely to do something to celebrate your mother (or child or wife, etc) by watching her favorite movie or planting flowers either alone or with a select group of friends and family. Take a deep breath and ask your heart what would feel most nourishing.

Once you feel clear on what you want, communicate these wishes with your family and friends. This may feel daunting but remember that people aren’t mind readers, and they truly do want what’s best for you. Oftentimes they don’t quite know what to do and are waiting to take a cue from you. Make it easier for them by simply telling them what you need and want. Remember, you are the best person to decide what’s best for you.

It helps not to be defensive but loving, gentle and direct. If you feel it would be more comfortable to write a note to your family and friends conveying your wishes, then do so. There’s nothing wrong with that approach.

If you’re still unclear about what would feel right to do on Mother’s Day, here are some wonderful resources full of suggestions:

Whatever you decide to do, remember that you can change it up however you need when the day comes – or for next year and the year after. The first year tends to be the most difficult but you may find yourself in this situation of asking what you want and need in subsequent years. Be flexible and open. Whatever you decide, it’s okay.

If you know someone who is grieving on Mother’s Day, the kindest gift you can give is your heart and the ability to sit with their pain without judging or trying to take it away. Providing a compassionate community by simply listening is courageous and the perfect gift. Don’t make decisions for them or try to “fix” them; just listen with an open heart and quiet mouth. If they wish to be alone, respect that they know what’s best. A phone call acknowledging their feelings is always appropriate as well. A voice message saying, “I’m thinking about you and (the loved one’s name) today. I’m here if you need anything.” can be incredibly validating for a grieving heart.

Mother’s Day is a celebration and as much as you may not feel like celebrating, open your heart to celebrating your loved one’s life and how it’s touched yours . . . Mother’s Day will never look quite the same as it does for those who haven’t lost a mother or child, but it can still be a peaceful day when you’re willing to live it wholeheartedly which means leaning into the pain AND the joy.

Thinking of you Mom! I hope you get to cuddle with Andy, Mark, MJ, Summer Rose, and David today ♥

If this is a difficult day for you because of some of the issues I’ve mentioned, I’d love to hear how to plan to spend/spent the day. Let’s share our stories and help each other. Much love to all of our tender hearts . . .


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