May 10, 2018

To the Motherless & Childless on Mother’s Day.

It starts in April. Maybe sooner in some places, but the onslaught of Mother’s Day is relentless and contrary to popular opinion, it is not a holiday celebrated by all.

My mother died when I was 24 years old, and I never had children, so I used to say that Mother’s Day was the equivalent of a holiday that I culturally didn’t celebrate like Chinese New Year or Passover, but that’s not the truth.

There is no way to miss Mother’s Day.

In the weeks leading up to it, every store, every restaurant, and every time you open your mailbox or your inbox, Mother’s Day is there with its pink advertising message.

Last year, Americans spent over $23 billion on Mother’s Day. To put that into context, Mother’s Day is the second highest spending holiday after the winter holidays (Christmas, New Year’s, and Hanukkah combined). Easter, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, and Halloween follow behind in the amounts spent.

That is what makes Mother’s Day unavoidable in today’s culture.

If your mother has died, it can be a stark reminder of what is not in your life anymore.

If your mother is alive, but you don’t have a great relationship with her, that brings up even more questions and regrets.

If you don’t have children because of biology, if you’ve had a child that died, or if you’ve given a child up for adoption, that makes Mother’s Day the most emotionally loaded of all of the holidays.

Mother’s Day is so ubiquitous that the idea that it might be an emotional trigger for some people is completely overlooked (like so many triggers often are, I guess).

I don’t begrudge people celebrating their mothers. Being a mother is a tough job and if you’re doing it well and your kids want to show you some appreciation, then bring on the flowers and the breakfast in bed. You deserve it. If you are the child in this scenario, be thankful for having such a present and supportive mother.

What I want to put out into the world is some compassion and empathy for those of us who are not buying cards or eating burnt toast in bed.

We are not alone. I know this day can make us feel isolated and ignored. Our losses are real and valid, and there are not enough pink flowers in the world to make it feel any better.

My own experience is as a motherless and childless woman just trying to navigate life in May without crying in the middle of the grocery store.

Since we all can’t enter a cave during this time each year, I offer a few ideas of how to celebrate Mother’s Day in your way, for your own reasons.

Mothering Yourself

Give yourself some extra time and care on this day to honor everything you’ve survived and what you’ve accomplished. Whether that is buying yourself a treat, spending time pursuing a hobby, or eating a delicious meal, you deserve something special. Sometimes in life, we have to mother ourselves.

Cherish Your Female Relationships

After I lost my mother, I was fortunate to have my friends’ mothers and other older female friends who could be my emotional support. I called these ladies my “surrogate mothers.” You may have some ladies like this in your life as well, whether they are aunts, co-workers, mothers of friends, friends of your mother, or a mother-in-law that stepped up to support you. Acknowledge their support and how much it means to you. Reach out to other friends and family members who are also motherless or childless and let them know you acknowledge that the day might be hard for them too.

Honoring Your Past

Whether your mother or child is dead or estranged from you, what you’re experiencing is grief. Despite the fact that we will all experience it, grief is the least talked about or understood emotion. The tendency is to brush it off or stuff it down, but grief never goes away until you acknowledge it and accept it.

Sigmund Freud used to talk about detachment as being the way to survive grief, but even he realized after the death of his daughter, that detaching or removing the memory of a loved one who has passed only makes the suffering worse. Honor the person missing in your life in a way that feels significant and meaningful to you.

We will always miss the people we’ve lost or never knew, but we can reach a point of gratitude for their existence and how they’ve changed our lives.

Ignoring Mother’s Day isn’t the answer, but we can change what it means to us. We can make the day about appreciating life (that is at the core, what a mother gives us). No trip down the card aisle required.



This is For the Motherless Daughters.

Mother’s Day for the Motherless.

Loving a Woman who has Lost her Mother.

When you’ve been Given the Perfect Words to Say to a Mother whose Son has Died.


Author: Kathryn Van Auken
Image: Pixabay
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Nicole Cameron

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