I didn’t expect to get emotionally ambushed when I checked my email, but the subject lines sucker-punched me without warning.
“Moms Are A Gift … So Give Them The Best.”
“Give Mom A Gift Card!”
And my favorite: “Don’t Forget Mom!”
Please. I’ve been mourning her for three years now, and not a day goes by where something doesn’t remind me of the underground music-loving, cocktail-mixing, hard-working ER nurse and mother of four named Lydia who fought lung cancer with every ounce of her amazing strength.
I have been trying to forget Mother’s Day, however, now that I don’t have this special lady to treat to brunch, send flowers or FaceTime anymore. But it’s hard to escape. Mother’s Day is the third-biggest retail holiday in the U.S., and Americans are expected to spend a record $25 billion on their moms this year. Hallmark estimates people will send 113 million Mother’s Day cards. So the mother of all well-meaning, well-oiled marketing machines is bombarding our inboxes, social media pages, websites and TV shows this time of year — which is really hard on the kids grieving our moms.
“The first year after I lost my mom, I remember rolling my eyes at all the ads, deleting all the emails before I really read them, or changing the channel, and being like, ‘Will it ever end!’” said Jessica Buckley, 37, from Long Island, whose mother also died from cancer six years ago.
“It’s a tough time,” agreed Simona Shipp, 34, in D.C., who lost her mother six years ago. “The sales ads, commercials, you try turn a blind eye to … but then everyone updates their Facebook profile pics to show their moms, or posts pics of mom. I just go to ground on the day of, avoid social media. All I can do is distract myself.”
Mother’s Day isn’t the only emotional minefield of a holiday if you’ve lost a parent; there’s also Christmas and Hanukkah to consider, Thanksgiving, or Father’s Day. If you’re a mom who’s lost a child, or a woman who can’t conceive, this weekend can also trigger a tsunami of sadness.
Since completely avoiding these holidays is impossible, grief counselors suggest meeting them head-on in a way that feels comfortable to you and to your family.
“The discomfort and the sadness is going to stay, because you miss her. But you can counteract that physical loss by giving her presence, even if you can’t give her presents,” Allison Gilbert, grief expert and author of “Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive,” told MarketWatch.
“Incorporate her into the day, because she’s still your mom, and your relationship is still important to you,” she explained. “Take a beat to look at photographs. Email or call someone to talk about her. Put up a Facebook post remembering her. Or even just say her name out loud. It’s more validating and restorative than you realize.”
Sue Carter, a counselor and therapist from Kara Grief Support for Children and Adults, suggests doing something your mom liked to do, like eating her favorite food or spending some time thinking about her.
So over the past couple of years, my family has returned to the beach where we made so many happy memories sipping Yoo-hoo, eating bagels and swimming out as far as we could before my mom would yell at us to stop tempting the riptides. This year, my sister and I will toast her with Baileys Irish Cream, one of her favorite adult beverages, and enjoy a dinner with some of her closest friends. We’ll play her favorite songs by Wilco and The Shins, and swap stories about her.
Buckley often goes to the beach with her husband and toddler daughter on Mother’s Day, and Shipp got a tattoo to honor her mom. Both of them also strongly recommend chatting with other people living through this. “You are not alone,” Shipp said. “There is a large but silent sisterhood (and brotherhood) out there.”
This was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.
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