06 May Mother’s Day: Celebration, Gratitude, Grief
My family celebrated Mother’s Day with cards, flowers, and brunch at a pretty place. Growing up in California, this generally meant at the beach. We were a brunch family for most holidays. Nowadays, I send flowers and call my mom on the day to say, “Happy Mother’s Day – I love you!” It used to be a pretty straightforward day for me. Now, as it is for many, Mother’s Day is a day of celebration and grief.
Anna Jarvis was the woman responsible for Mother’s Day becoming an official holiday. In 1905, her mother had died. Mother’s Day was a memorial to her mom. By 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday. Jarvis wanted the day to be dedicated to expressing love and gratitude to mothers. A day to acknowledge the sacrifices women make for their children and to celebrate the connection between mother and child.
Jarvis later became outraged as the holiday became more and more commercialized. She would not be happy with the way we celebrate today. The holiday drives approximately $24 billion in the US annually. If you want to avoid the gift crush and do something homemade, Anna would approve!
Grief is Normal
In reading about the origins of Mother’s Day, I realized that it began in grieving. If you are grieving this Mother’s Day, you may feel conflicted or just plain sad. Spend time with family remembering your mom or spend it by yourself. Reminder, anger is a part of grief too. If the day pisses you off, grief may be at the core. Be angry, it’s normal.
There are reasons other than death that this day may be grief-filled:
- Your mother has dementia or Alzheimer’s
- Your relationship with your mom was painful or she was absent.
- You were adopted and
- don’t know your 1st mother
- know your 1st mother, but it’s complicated
- 1st mother has died
- 1st mother rejected you as an adult
- You lost a child through
- Infertility Issues
Ambivalence is Normal Too
Being that this has become a bit of a Hallmark card holiday, you might not care about the day based on that alone. If your mother was not available to you consistently, abusive or neglectful or just not attuned, what used to be an anxious wanting may now simply feel like ambivalence. Mom was not available to connect with and now, as an adult, you feel flat where she is concerned. That’s normal. There is grief there too, however, there may be reconciliation in your heart with the reality of what she was and was not capable of in your life.
A notice that the flowers I ordered for my mom were delivered just arrived. Mom doesn’t hear the doorbell anymore so I call to let her know. She forgets things sometimes, but is still vivacious and up for anything. She needs a walker to get around. It is so hard to see the decline of someone so dear.
I was adopted so I have two mothers. We communicate at holidays with cards. I email and she has responded once. It is painful.
I’d imagine this day is hard for her. She celebrates being a mother to 3 children and 3 grandchildren as opposed to four children. I am the secret she refuses so far to reveal. So far, I am complicit. More pain.
Motherhood is challenging on a good day. Here’s to all of you out there trying hard. Showing up and being present as best as you are able. Happy Mother’s Day.
Kate Murphy, LCSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Chamblee, GA, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often. Personally and professionally she is part of the adoptee and LGBTQ community. Licensed in GA & FL.