Remembering Moms on Mother’s Day

“For a long time after my mother died, I didn’t know how to spend Mother’s Day. There were no rituals in the larger culture for me to follow, and no family acknowledgment that this day might be a hard one,” author and grief expert Hope Edelman recently wrote. Edelman lost her mother at 17. It was five years before she could even say “my mother” without crying.

Mother’s Day can be fraught, even for people whose mothers or children are alive. The expectations, disappointments, guilt — it can be a lot to navigate. But for those who are missing someone, Mother’s Day can come with an even more complex combination of emotions.

To give grievers the support she had not found, Edelman began holding annual “Motherless Daughter” luncheons in 1996, many of which continued through the years with a pause during the pandemic. This year, she’s holding a free “Worldwide Day of Remembrance” on May 7 with Claire Bidwell Smith, honoring mothers who are no longer living and in-person luncheons in select cities. Last year, over 500 women attended a virtual gathering from 24 countries.

Even 20 years after losing his mom, Ned Buskirk of “You’re Going to Die” says he still sheds tears missing her, but describes her death as the “worst best thing that ever happened” to him. Buskirk’s organization hosts writing workshops and performances to bring people together to share their common mortality and grief.

Last year, he shared “five things that opened up” for him afterward, including the transformation of their relationship. “It’ll never be what it was when she was alive, but we are still together, in relationship. Even now, as I write this, I feel her with me.”

Finding the gifts of her grief has also been the experience of Forever Process founder and grief coach, Hannah Mason. Mason lost her mom to breast cancer at 21 and found herself experiencing a confusing spectrum of emotions from “pure bliss and deep sadness all in one moment.” She writes, “I am reminded that we each go through our hardships to transform; and our individual transformations allow us to hold each other through the eye-opening, mind-shattering, heartbreaking and soul-awakening events that every single human on this planet experiences at some point or another.”

Grief educator, speaker, consultant and writer Alica Forneret created the Dead Moms Club to gather those who experienced similar losses in their lives and in the past, hosted an annual “Motherless Mother’s Day,” a place where it was OK to be sad, frustrated or even annoyed at endless ads for Mother’s Day brunches with bottomless “mommosas.”

This year she’ll be spending her first Mother’s Day as a new mom, fully offline enjoying time with her new baby and husband.

Her advice to others who are struggling is to “know that it’s OK to celebrate your mom, not celebrate your mom, commemorate her or ignore the holiday altogether. I think that with these holidays, it can feel like we HAVE to do something, be sad and think about our person, or do some kind of gesture that shows we’re actively grieving in the ‘right’ way.

I think what’s more important than observing a holiday out of pressure or obligation is observing what you’re feeling and honoring that.”

Photo Jon Tyson

Mother’s Day events

May 6: Reimagine: Open memorial
May 7: Worldwide Day of Remembrance, free and online
May 8: Reimagine: Writing workshop with Susan Lieu

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