Happy Mother’s Day….or is it?

Happy Mother’s Day….or is it?

by Camille Nitschky, The Grief Lady

I was standing at the post office the other day, innocently browsing the Hallmark cards. I saw the cutest Mother’s Day Card and had to buy it. It had Snoopy on it and my mom loved Peanuts. My mom Helen, died in September 1998, her 70th birthday was in October. In November that year I attended a grief group where I was the youngest of the group and the only one there because of a parent death. I was nervous about confessing to them that I had indeed shopped for a card after they had been talking about how they missed celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. I remember having a grief attack in the store and sobbing in the card aisle. Pretty embarrassing for someone who likes to appear to have it all together, so I sucked the sadness back in like a genie going back in a bottle and bought the card. I wondered if the clerk had any clue, I was buying the card for my mom who had just died? I spent what seemed like hours signing it. The words meandering throughout the white space, filling in the gaps, like caulk in the cracks of my broken heart. At first it felt like it was making it worse. I wouldn’t be able to give her the card and it just reminded me of what I no longer had.

I love the rituals of different spiritual traditions; the smudging of the Native American ceremony reminds of my Catholic roots of the incense being waved about the church. The offering and “lifting up” of prayer as the smoke rises. So, I burned the card I’d just poured my sadness and love into and watched the smoke carry it “up” to her. Again, I sobbed. I felt a sense of release and it was like I had spent some “time” with her. Our relationship at that point would begin to transform into the spiritual relationship I have with her still today. I still hear her voice in my head giving me advice. I think of her when I see a sunset, a golf course, or some cool jacket I know she’d like when I’m shopping. My daughter who she never met truly knows her from all the stories I’ve shared. I’ve kept her spirit alive by telling those stories. I’ve learned the worse thing I can do is not talk about my mom and the love we shared, even when it aches to do so. It always feels better when I tell “her story”.

I’ve realized over the years we all do this “grief thing” differently. It can be complicated. We all have our hidden scars. Be gentle with yourself. Scars can still be painful when you bump them hard enough. We can be fragile in our remembering. For some women, Mother’s Day may remind you of the child you “lost”. For others, men included, it may remind you of your mother that died. Or perhaps your mother is “lost” in dementia. Maybe there’s the hidden regret of not having children, or the guilt society can lay on you because you never wanted any. People just throw it around so randomly, “Happy Mother’s Day” to any woman they see.

I’ve learned it can be a tender day for many. If by chance you are fortunate enough to have your mom, or you are a mom, then I hope you’re able to treasure it. To be present in the moment, in each hug, and each wave good-bye. Motherhood doesn’t automatically give you a specific measure of worth. You are invaluable just the way you are, a woman, a mother, an aunt, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a mentor. Acknowledge and celebrate the mother in all of us when you hear Happy Mother’s Day, no matter how that looks in the landscape of your life. Our sadness and our joy can share the same bittersweet moments as we remember who we came from and those that may have come from us. Tell your story, tell their story, tell it again and then again.

Written by Camille Gerace Nitschky, the Executive Director at the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region.  Also written by Camille: Grief Doesn’t Take a Holiday & Be Your Own Valentine

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