Happy Mother’s Day

Dear Motherless Daughter,

You’re probably not looking forward to Mother’s Day this year—or any year. I’ve been motherless since I was eight and I still don’t look forward to Mother’s Day. Even when my children were young and celebrated me with handmade cards and burnt toast, I still felt sad that I wasn’t able to personally celebrate with my mom.

When I was a kid, my dad and I planted window boxes for my mother on Mother’s Day. The colorful boxes sat under the two windows at the front of our modest, post-war bungalow in Nebraska. Flowers have always reminded me of my mother—from the pink carnations on her casket to the bachelor buttons and multi-colored zinnias she planted in our backyard.

I’ve had sixty-seven Mother’s Days to learn how to survive the day in the healthiest way possible. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Plan ahead for how you’ll spend the day. Pre-COVID, my husband and I took a local lunch cruise on Mother’s Day (I live on Marco Island, Florida). Balmy weather, beautiful scenery, the movement of the boat, and someone besides me preparing lunch, all made for a lovely day and took my mind off the sadness.
  • Do something to honor your mother. In my gardening days, I frequently planted a rose bush or other long-lasting, flowering plant. Today, I buy “us” a big bouquet of pink carnations or other cut flowers.
  • Acknowledge your sad feelings. If you’re new to loss, use Mother’s Day as a time to tell your mother-story to a trusted friend or share your sad feelings with someone you love. If this isn’t possible, journal about your feelings. Be honest when someone asks, “How are you?”
  • Stay away from triggers. It’s hard to avoid the hype for Mother’s Day—ads for gifts, card displays, social media posts of happy mothers and daughters. Don’t fixate on them. Move along. You can be glad for those who are celebrating without immersing yourself in situations that tap into sadness or anger.
  • Celebrate the mothers in your family. My children send me Mother’s Day cards and I, in turn, send cards to my daughters, step-daughters, and daughter-in-law. Even if it’s a difficult day for me, I’m thankful they did not grow up motherless. My mother also grew up without a mother (her’s died when she was three), so I’m particularly grateful to have broken the cycle with my children.
  • Stop anticipating disaster. Sometimes the anticipation of Mother’s Day is worse than the actual day. That’s how COVID-Christmas was for me last year. Anticipating the holiday away from family was terrible; the actual day—not so bad. The lesson? Tell yourself it’s just another day—one day out of 365. Don’t succumb to the “ain’t it awful” syndrome.

If you’re a mother, Happy Mother’s Day! If you’re not, Happy Sunday!

You’re in my heart,
Mershon Niesner, author
Mom’s Gone, Now What?
Ten steps to help daughters move forward after loss        Used with permission

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