For some, Mother’s Day is bittersweet

For some, Mother’s Day is a bittersweet time. It’s a time not to go onto social media with all of the Happy Mother’s Day posts, because it’s like a thousand tiny cuts on your heart and soul.

It may be a time that reminds us that we don’t have the relationship with our mother that we would like. Years of miscommunication, over communication, hurtful things said and done, and not easily erased appears as a specter in front of that shines a light on wounds that have never healed and brings fresh awareness to those wounds that have been ignored to numbness and dull, constant pain.

For me it was like that for so many years. The strife that I had with my mother and mother figures would become acutely present on Mother’s Day, which by all expectation should be a happy day to celebrate the gratitude that we have for our mothers. During those times of strife, all I felt was pain.

It may be a time of mourning that our mother is no longer with us. The strife that I had with my mother has since healed, and I’m grateful that she is still with us. I have friends whose mothers have left this life. The feeling of emptiness and ache from lost dreams and unfilled expectations mixed in with longing for the warmth, love, comfort of their mothers swells up when reminders of their mothers are the most present, like mother’s birthdays, holidays like Mother’s Day.  

I have friends who mourn on Mother’s Day because they are not mothers. For so many years, Mother’s Day was a cruel reminder that I was not one. While I celebrated with my friends and family, I felt the glacial emptiness of not being a mother. Since I was 19 years old, I knew that the one thing that I wanted in my life was to be a mom. The ache grew with each passing year and every broken relationship that the fruits of efforts had once again not led to having a child. Today, I am a mother. I can celebrate Mother’s Day. I am gleeful and grateful. But I also acknowledge the searing pain for those who want to be mothers and are not.

My friends and family experience Mother’s Day as an unimaginably painful reminder that they lost a child. I have friends and family who lost their only child and may feel like they are no longer able to call themselves a mother. I have friends and family who lost the promise of a child before that child was able to show its sweet face to the world. For my friends and family who lost a child but have a surviving child, what mix of emotions do you feel when you look at your living child’s face and feel ineffable joy, but also see the face of the child lost and feel unbearable grief.  

Although Mother’s Day for me was a happy time this year, I wanted to make sure that I acknowledged those for whom it is not. 

©2020, 2021 Michelle Raab, PhD. All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “For some, Mother’s Day is bittersweet

  1. My mother died when I was 21. for many many years, my mothers day tradition was driving the forty minutes to her grave yard and drop a bouquet of flowers on her grave. Once, at a bar afterwards, I was chatting up some woman I met and she asked me if I had contacted my mother for mother’s day. I said I went and visited her grave yard. The woman said “Your mother owns a grave yard?”

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