This week we welcome our very own Mindfulness expert Carly to share her own personal experience of surviving Mother’s Day after loss. Thank you Carly for sharing this with us, we truly appreciate it.
I’ll never forget the first Mother’s Day without my Mum, or more the lead up to it. I was just 22, and it was around 4 months after me and my sisters had lost the most influential person in our life. I say ‘around’ 4 months as the days/ months/ years around that time and afterwards were one big blur. This one day however will stay with me forever…
It was March 2002, and a friend had come to visit me. I was away at university still trying to make studying work (it didn’t… the grief was too overwhelming and I left about a month later). We walked across to a local supermarket to get a few student supplies (pot noodle anyone?), and were wandering the aisles whilst making what felt like small talk when my friend suddenly stopped to look at Mother’s Day cards and gifts. In that moment she had forgotten all about what I was going through and had reverted to being a loving daughter wanting to buy her Mum something special; something I had always loved to do too.
I remember it feeling like a stab in the heart, with tears beginning to fall, yet I felt frozen to the spot and unable to voice my upset. It wasn’t until my friend was asking me which card was the best one when she turned to me, saw my tears, took a few moments to twig then realised- swiftly putting the cards down, apologising and we moved on.
At the time, it hurt… how could she not have remembered?? Yet I now realise how easily any of us could have – and most likely do- the same in similar situations. For those grieving, it’s all we can think. To those around them it’s shock news initially then back to their own life they go. I know because I’ve done exactly the same since.
This is just one version of Mother’s Day without your Mum. Everyone’s will be different- even both of my sister’s version will be, despite all three of us suffering the same loss. One thing which will be the same- for me, my sisters and all of those whose Mum is no longer here- is the heart ache we all feel one way or another, no matter how long ago the loss was.
They say time is a healer, to which I say yes AND no. Yes it gets easier in terms of the pain becoming less prominent as the years go by, and no because every year is another year since we last saw them… the memories fading a little more with each year.
Another bizarre emotion is a feeling we put upon ourselves, although on reflection this is most likely mirroring the same thought I used to have.. that people will have gotten over it and cracked on with life, and that the suffering is done and dusted too- nope! It’s simply repackaged and moulds into the background yet- every now and again- something triggers a memory and it can be as though it’s happened all over again.
Mother’s Day most likely doesn’t happen in that way- we know it’s coming after all. Yet suddenly hearing the song played at your Mum’s funeral, or a song they used to love
however- that’s a different story altogether (I swear my heart freezes even just for a moment every time that happens, followed by a tear or two or holding them back).
It’s different when it comes to the big dates… I may not have been ready for the first Mother’s Day, but for the years which followed I began to prepare myself as much as I could. I developed a shield where I would try my hardest not to let anything in. I would avoid shops around that time, stay away from social media once that became a thing (I’m showing my age!) and would distract myself on the day itself. Mother’s Day simply didn’t exist, or at least not until I had my own children.
Mother’s Day can be bittersweet and a confusion if you have children… I personally love seeing the excitement of my girls who can’t wait to give me their cards and gifts, plus we like to go out for lunch or tea and cake too (I mean, is there anything cake can’t make better??).
And yet- as much as I’m now able to enjoy the day- I can’t help but feel that familiar pang of sadness too… on the day itself, and especially in the lead up as you can no longer shield away. The adverts, the offers, the emails, even the emails to update email preferences if you don’t want to hear about Mother’s Day… and then on the day itself the flood of Mother’s day posts on social media thanking their Mums for all that they do, whilst those who have lost either don’t post OR post in memory instead (even typing this has quite surprisingly triggered a surge of emotion I wasn’t quite expecting, I guess I hadn’t even thought of it like this until I typed it just now!).
And this is just it- whether it was last week or 20 years ago, those who have lost their Mum will forever feel their loss again on Mother’s Day. It may not be as heart-breaking as the first one, but it’s there. We all deal with it in our own way, knowing how best to deal with the day or not. One thing I’ve learnt is that you can feel different one year to the next, this will be the same for you if your Mum is no longer here too, or if you have a complicated relationship and/ or if you have experienced baby loss or fertility problems too.
My top tip when it comes to dealing with this time (OR if you are looking to support someone who has been through this loss but have no idea what to say)- is to deal with it how you need to, and to show compassion and kindness to yourself or to others if they have been through this loss too- no matter how long ago it was. Whether sending a text, picking up the phone (remember that?), taking them out for lunch or a coffee or perhaps even sending a gift to say you care without having to say it. I know how awkward others can find addressing loss; not knowing what to say or whether to mention it at all. The truth? You don’t have to say anything, just being there is more than enough.
Sending love to anyone who has lost their Mum this Mother’s Day, and always