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Mother's Day

To All of the Motherless Mothers on Mother’s Day

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This day is for us. We are celebrated. We get extra hugs and cards and maybe an extra hour of sleep. And we deserve it.

This day is also not for us. We watch the greeting card commercials with mothers and daughters connecting through the perfect note, and we can’t do that. We see the multiple generations of women out to brunch, and we are down a generation. We scroll past the Facebook statuses of people so grateful for having the best moms in the world. And we are so very sad.

On the one hand, we are incredibly lucky to have our own meaning for Mother’s Day. We have the ability to focus on ourselves in the role of Mom. On the other hand, we can’t ignore the holiday and pretend it isn’t there, like we may want to do when we think about what we are missing.

READ: What My Mother Still Teaches Me, Years After She’s Gone

My mother died three years ago–only three days after Mother’s Day. I am incredibly grateful that her last weekend was filled with the love of her children and grandchild both near and far. However, it also complicates that day for me, increasing the emotion in every way.

My first Mother’s Day as a motherless mother, I made a decision. I would embrace the day, but in a way I never would have had my own mother been there. We woke up early and drove out to Annapolis to do one of those pirate cruises. It was shockingly full of families with mothers willing to put on an eye patch at 9:00 a.m. on a day usually reserved for sleeping in and getting breakfast in bed. Not exactly a restful and indulgent celebration, but my mom did not like boats, so I had no experiences with her that made me think of her as we searched for treasure and shot water cannons at passing ships. Plus my kids loved it, which made me happy–happy and distracted.

The next year, we did the exact same thing. And I decided, “This must be our Mother’s Day tradition.” I thought that was what I would want to do or maybe need to do every year to make Mother’s Day something I could not only tolerate, but enjoy.

READ: I Lost My Mom Nine Months Into My Pregnancy

However, now I’m approaching my third Mother’s Day as a motherless mother. I am finding myself increasingly emotional as the day approaches on the calendar, but I don’t find myself planning our annual pirate boat cruise. At first, I chastised myself for giving up on our family tradition so quickly. And I got a little scared about what that would mean for that second Sunday in May. Then I realized that it shouldn’t be a sign of defeat, but instead a sign of healing. I don’t need to do something my mom would have hated to get through the day. I can think of her and feel sad and still enjoy my day. I can even do something she would have enjoyed and talk to my kids about how much she would have loved it.

For those of you who are lucky enough not to know what this feels like, I can speak for all of us motherless mothers in telling you that we have not healed. And for those of you fatherless mothers or motherless/fatherless fathers, I don’t mean to exclude you. I know you get it. Whether it has been three years or 30 years, we will never completely heal. However, we are healing. Treat us gently on this day, but also remember that we want to find a way to make it special and happy as mothers ourselves.

READ: On Days Like These, I Miss My Mom

And to those of us who come into this day with conflicted emotions, let us think about our children. Our children want to celebrate us. This day is also for them because it provides an opportunity to demonstrate their love.

Lastly, we should not forget about our mothers. They would want us to be celebrated. If they were here, they would revel in our role as mother and have us sit on the “queen for a day” throne right alongside them. In celebrating ourselves, we are also celebrating them.

I give us all permission to enjoy our day. There is no doubt in my mind that is what they would have wanted. Happy Mother’s Day to us.

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