As Mother’s Day draws near, I decided to re-publish a post I wrote last year.
Although the media trumpets Mother’s Day as a time for celebration, the fact is that this day is a sad, traumatic, or, at best, an unsettling time for many of us. For example, some women have lost children, miscarried a child or aborted a baby; some have severely ill children; some are unable to bear a baby while desperately yearning for a child; some are pregnant with an unwanted child. At the same time, many people, both men and women, experience sadness, worry, grief, resentment, even hatred for their mothers—mothers who have passed away, mothers who are desperately sick, mothers who abused them, mothers who abandoned them, mothers who ignored them, you get the picture. Many wish they could go back in time for a ‘do-over’ with their moms. The list goes on and on.
I fall into a mixed emotion category. I celebrate the fact that I’m the mother of two happy, healthy sons, while memories of my mother generate sadness and regret.
My mother was a beautiful, brilliant, talented, witty, empathetic, and deeply damaged woman. Emotional traumas from her childhood had left wounds that would destroy her life. As a child, I loved her with all my heart and soul. In those days, she was happy in a new marriage to my stepfather, and her world was full of promise. By my teenage years, that marriage was heading downhill at warp speed, and she had started to manifest signs of depression and anxiety. Life became chaotic, and I distanced myself with books, school, and (eventually) friends. When I hit adulthood, I got married and moved away, while my mother’s emotional disturbances grew to catastrophic proportions. An acrimonious divorce drove her over the edge. Unknown to me, she turned to alcohol and prescription drugs, denying any problems and refusing treatment for her emotional turmoil. Try as I might, I was unable to find the right words to convince her she needed help.
On my youngest son’s fourth birthday, I found Mom lying on her bedroom floor, dead of a combination of Valium, sleeping pills, and alcohol. The verdict was accidental overdose. To this day, I cling to the belief that she wouldn’t have committed suicide on her grandchild’s birthday. Whether or not she did, the truth is, she’d given up on life long before she died.
At the time, I managed to stuff down my emotions and cement them over. Hey, I had a husband and two young children, a fledgling career, and denial runs deep and strong in my family. It took twenty years (and much therapy) until I learned to forgive her for killing herself, also to forgive myself for not finding a way to save her. Strangely enough, that forgiveness set me free to love my mom again.
Here’s the thing. Today, I feel gratitude for having my mother in my life, exactly as she was. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her. She gave me many gifts. I inherited my artistic talent and a gift for humorous writing from Mom. Because of my mother, I learned how to ‘read’ people by looking beyond their public mask, I learned to admit my mistakes, make amends, and move on, and I found a new passion for personal and spiritual growth. But most of all, I learned that forgiveness, especially for myself, is essential for living a full and productive life.
Nevertheless, when Mother’s Day rolls around each year, I feel a sense of loss, and wish I could tell my mom how much she meant to me, how much I loved her, still do. My sadness passes, however, especially when my sons pamper me with hugs, a dinner on the town, and flowers.
I would love to hear from you. Please let me know you’ve read this post and tell me how you feel about Mother’s Day.