Complex Holidays

Mother’s Day. My relationship to this day has been a complicated one for most of my life. Until more recently actually, I did not celebrate this day at all. Since my mom died when I was nine, this day has really been nothing but painful for most of my years. So much so that I just decided to forget all about it in my twenties and avoid going out in public completely until it was over. Beause for me, it wasn't Mother's Day, it was Grief Day. One of many Grief Day holidays throughout the year. 

It’s safe to say I’ve always had an understandable disdain for this and any other holiday that calls attention to what is missing for me. Nothing quite as horrific as being the kid at school who doesn’t have a mom to make a card for or invite to a special Mother’s Day event.

My relationship to this day has changed a lot in the past ten years... I met Drew, and in the years we spent together as well as the years after he died, I’ve continued to get closer to his mom. Suddenly, after he died, we found ourselves in a unique place. A mother without her child, and a child without her mother. Suddenly, we found solace in each other, and an understanding of our different but equally deep losses. To this day, even halfway across the country, we remain close and a part of each other. She gave me a reason to appreciate this holiday in a way I hadn’t been able to before. She was the first person to help me see that this day isn’t only hard for me...

Fast forward a few more years, and this day has another meaning for me. Meaning that I’d never expected to have. Meeting Mike, and his daughter. Because now there is this little girl in my world who doesn’t have her mom here either… and my being here means that she has another mom in her world to celebrate on this day. It means I get to take her to a movie or for fancy pedicures, just the two of us, and give her joyful memories of feeling special and loved on this day. Memories that are so much more positive than the ones I grew up with. It means that Mike gets to see his daughter having a positive experience of this day instead of a painful reminder of what isn't.

It’s all the losses in our lives that have taught me to see more about this day. To see with broader perspective and a bigger heart. It isn’t only hard for daughters without mothers. It’s hard for moms without their children. It’s hard for moms without their husband. It’s hard for dad’s without their wife. It’s hard for widowed people who didn’t get to have children yet. It’s hard for entire families who can feel the absence of someone important. It’s hard for so many more people than just me. Ultimately, losing Drew is what showed me that. And ultimately, over time, a complex new version of this day has unfolded that isn't just about who's missing, but also about who is still here.

Sometimes it’s hard to see that way when we are in our own pain and loss. For many years I’ve seen nothing but my own pain about this day. And still, the week leading up to it, I do tend to feel my own pain more heavily. There is almost always a day that week where I just want to fast forward through it all. But I’m finding it helps to spend at least part of this day focused on appreciating others who I know have a complex relationship with Mother’s Day too. So if that’s you, which I’m certain many of you have your own complex relationship with this day, I’m sending you my love. I’m honoring your pain. And I’m hoping amidst the pain, there is also some sweetness. At the same time, I wish you - and I - didn't have all this pain. I wish we could embrace days like this without all this complexity. But here we are, and wherever that is, today I am going to honor it the best I can. 


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  • Bobby Atwal
    commented 2019-05-16 10:07:12 -0700
    This is an amazing piece of sharing! Losing my wife and mother-in-law has made Mother’s Day a constant reminder for me and my daughter. Thank you so much for sharing.
  • Mike Welker
    commented 2019-05-12 06:50:50 -0700
    Happy mother’s day honey. Having you in Shelby’s life has been more than I could have ever asked for, and to know that she has gotten to have two wonderful mothers shows that even losing one can have a silver lining. 😊