May 6, 2019

The Hollow Ache of the Motherless on Mother’s Day.


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Love, loss, and hope on Mother’s Day,

This July will mark the 25th anniversary of the day that I lost my mom.

About two weeks ago, I started to feel more impatient, more anxious and agitated, more emotional…basically just going through the feelings of a nervous system on high alert.

“Aha,” I thought to myself, “Here it comes again…Mother’s Day.”

It’s the third largest card-sending holiday of the year in the United States according to Hallmark, with roughly 113 million cards being exchanged.

Anna M. Jarvis is credited as establishing Mother’s Day in 1908 on the second anniversary of her mother’s passing as a way to honor mothers. To an extent, this seems ironic to me, as the vast majority of women I know who have lost their mothers have a sense of dread as Mother’s Day approaches and wish they could avoid it at all costs.

Granted, the context in which one has lost their mother will bear weight upon one’s experience of the day, as will the length of time since one’s mother has passed, and whether or not one has children and is now in the reverse role in the mother-child dynamic.

That being said, even after so much time has passed since losing my mom, this holiday always brings back some of the heartache, some of the devastation, and some of the sadness over a life cut short. Over dreams not fulfilled. Over milestones not shared and over questions not answered.

Even after all of this time, I sometimes still get that twinge of distress walking through stores bursting full of cards and gifts to celebrate Mom. When it’s been especially bad some years, I can hear the silent screaming in my head that I don’t have a mom anymore, that I can’t celebrate with her, and that no one else understands this relentless and lifelong pain.

Though of course, there are others who understand. Who have also lost their moms under any number of circumstances, some never having known their moms at all. I don’t know what’s worse…having lost your mother’s love or never having had it at all. But loss is not a competitive sport, and wherever you may be on the spectrum of loss should be honored.

So what have I learned after almost a half-century of living without my mom?

The hurt never completely goes away.

It morphs and is experienced in a myriad of ways as we go through different life stages. Sometimes, it returns with a vengeance and feels like there is a heavy sandbag on my chest or a hollow pit in my stomach.

And sometimes…it feels like hope. Like I have been given a gift to see how much I can do in the world to help others who are experiencing this kind of pain. Like I can pause and take in something beautiful around me because I know how fleeting it all is.

Like I can appreciate my own courage and strength because I know what it feels like to be down in a well of despair with no visible way out. And yet…I did find a way out. Not only a way out, but a way to live with a sense of peace about my past and a direction for my future.

So on this Mother’s Day, if you are missing your mom as I am missing mine, know that there is a whole community of motherless daughters out there surrounding you with understanding, with compassion, with love, and yes…even with hope.


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