I don’t look forward to Mother’s Day.
I’ve been blessed with a loving husband and four beautiful children but it’s hard not to think about prenatal losses and toxic family relationships. If it were up to me, I’d be happy just to take off to the beach for the day and avoid church, restaurants, and Facebook where it’s entirely too easy for me to start thinking that I’m the only person who deals with sadness and loss.
For those of us living with dysfunctional, toxic relationships with our mothers the advertisements reminding us to “remember” Mother’s Day leave us with heaviness. People who haven’t experienced this type of difficulty (well, trauma) don’t understand and often admonish us to honor them while turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile.
Some of us have chosen to continue the relationship, while others have limited contact with heavily enforced boundaries and still others have gone no contact. Estrangement isn’t an overnight decision, it generally comes after years of trying to reconcile and make things right only to be on the receiving end of old hurts again and again.
Some have lost their mothers. For those who had a loving, healthy relationship with their moms the heaviness of loss can be overwhelming and cause feelings of intense grief. The unconditional love of a real mom can never be replaced.
Many women have struggled with infertility and/or prenatal loss. However (and whenever) the loss occurred, Mother’s Day can stir up sad memories. Those who experienced an early prenatal loss may have the peculiar grief and struggle of feeling that nobody else remembers and grieves with them. Women who struggle with infertility are wondering if their time will ever come.
Some have lost their children. As a special needs mom, this is a stark reality for me. I’m well aware that without modern medical advances two of my children would not be here. Facebook reminds me of how many children are struggling with chronic conditions or have gone missing without a trace.
Here are some ways that I’ve learned to cope with Mother’s Day.
*I’ve learned to accept what has happened. Nothing can change the past. but I can choose to be a different kind of parent and there has been healing in that journey for me. In parenting my children, somehow, I learned how to parent myself.
*There is always something to be grateful for. Think of a few of them and take some time to reflect on them. Enjoy who is with you today – whether it be your spouse, your children, or your pets. If you are by yourself, treat yourself to a fun movie or make some time for creativity.
*Be good to yourself – If a particular circumstance causes you pain, it’s okay to stay away from it. It could be a family gathering or even just going to church. Sometimes houses of worship can place so much focus on honoring the day that it causes pain for those who struggle. Make a different plan. It’s really okay. Have an “at home” day if you’re on the go a lot, go to the beach, a park, or any place that helps you to get out of your head and relax. Go out to eat or pick up some great take-out to enjoy at home.
*Acknowledge the positive women that God has placed in your life. In His love and wisdom, I’ve been blessed with many encouraging older women since I started my walk with him years ago.
*Make use of blank cards – for those with toxic relationships with their mothers, it is excruciatingly painful looking through the happy display of Mother’s Day cards and wondering why things turned out the way that they did for you. For years I settled on Snoopy cards but this year I was happy to see a prominent display of blank cards which enabled me to send a simply stated greeting. It’s all I’ve chosen to do – no calls or other gifts. Just a simple acknowledgment.
*Stay off Facebook. In fact, consider a digital break. Like other holidays, sometimes seeing all the happy pictures and outings that everyone else seems to have (I know, my perception) can be overwhelming.
Some Final Thoughts
If you have a person in your life who has chosen limited contact with their mother, I implore you to show them understanding and grace. It’s hard enough to experience and process the extreme hurt and pain that comes from growing up in such an environment, and to be judged for taking decisive action to protect yourself just compounds the hurt.
And if someone close to you has experienced the loss of a child – no matter if it was prenatal or at any other stage of life, it will mean the world to them that someone remembered and acknowledged it.
Here’s some additional reading:
As for me, I took some time today for lunch out and a manicure. I’ll enjoy Sunday with my family and some excellent Asian takeout…