Spring rolling in means that Mother’s Day is right around the corner. As a child when my mom was alive, I did not really think much about Mother’s Day other than focusing on getting my mom a gift and writing a card to tell her how much I loved and appreciated her. Then at the young age of 13, I was celebrating my first Mother’s Day without my mom. Although I can’t remember specific memories from that day, I know I felt many emotions including sadness, anger, and loneliness.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of women in my life to celebrate who have supported me and my family through our grief journey including my aunt, grandmas, cousins, family friends, and my mother-in-law. Each year I celebrate these women who have helped me grow into adulthood because I truly could not have come this far without each of them. Although it has taken years to get to the point where Mother’s Day doesn’t completely overwhelm me (I’m just trying to get through the day like everyone else grieving), I can still feel when Mother’s Day is coming in my body through anxiousness, fatigue, or headaches.
I would be lying to you if I said it didn’t make me jealous or even sad not being able to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom, especially seeing everyone post pictures of their moms on Facebook. Sometimes I join in and share pictures of my mom and my other mother figures, but even that doesn’t take away the pain. It still hurts. I imagine that if my mom was here today, we would spend the day hanging out, chatting, and eating food – and probably enjoy some chocolate too! I also know that she’s up in heaven looking over me, even on Mother’s Day, and not wanting me to feel these strong feelings that come along with grief…but I’m human and I continue to have these emotions and I choose to keep working through them.
Mother’s Day also makes me think about the other individuals who may be having a difficult time on this day such as mothers who have lost children, those who have strained relationships with their mothers, mothers who have strained child relationships, and those yearning to be mothers. This year is particularly difficult for me as I am preparing to be a mother myself with my baby due at the end of September. I yearn to talk to my mom, get advice, and talk about her pregnancy experiences. I plan to surround myself with family on Mother’s Day and make the best of the day that I can – maybe eating lots of food!
There are many things that I have done to remember my mom on Mother’s Day as I want to continue to keep her memory I alive! My family and I have gone to the cemetery and placed flowers of my mom’s favorite colors, and if we were feeling up to it, we would even share some memories. We have gotten together with my aunt (my mom’s sister) and my grandma (my mom’s mom, when she was still alive) and just spent the day together. I find peace in walking and just being outside in nature to be closer to my mom. If you can’t tell already, I enjoy eating food so that’s a must – especially some form of chocolate!
It is so valuable to discuss ahead of time what you want to do as a family to get through Mother’s Day, or any holiday. Maybe you want to continue with the traditions you’ve always done, or perhaps you want to switch it up and have a fun day at a waterpark! Give yourself and your family permission to celebrate while lowering your expectations. Your world has been flipped upside down and you are trying to survive grief as the world continues as normal around you. It’s important that we acknowledge our feelings and find ways of expressing them in healthy ways, like punching a pillow, blowing bubbles, or going for a run. It’s also extremely important to take care of yourself. Both children and adults need self-care, so find what works best for you, whether that be journaling, coloring, or just binge-watching tv.
On a personal note, here is a shout out to my dad, Vito, who made holidays more bearable and should earn a Father-of-the-Year Award. Coming from a Sicilian family where he learned not to talk about his grief, to placing his daughters in SandCastles Grief Support Program. He took initiative to talk about grief and support his daughters through their grief journey and that is a huge thing in my eyes. It changed my life. I have a special place in my heart for all the dads out there raising their children after the death of their spouse or significant other. I see you and thank you for stepping up into the dual parent role and doing what you need to support your children. No one gives you a handbook (although there should be one! 😊).
Written by Leah Bengel, current SandCastles Team Member and former program participant