Usually on Mother’s Day I scroll through my Facebook and Instagram reels, flooded with photo after photo of my friends smiling brightly back at me with their moms. The little captions catch my eye; “my ride or die” “‘my number one,” “my best friend”…with plenty of variations. Sometimes I find myself reading through the longer more meaningful captions and find myself wondering what I would say to my mom this year if she were here for Mother’s Day.
Sometimes I look through these photos and I truly don’t mind so much. They don’t phase me. I can skim through them all without really feeling anything special. I “like” a few of my friends’ posts, then move on with my day, a little unsettled, a little down, but still okay overall. But in the past few years I’ve noticed that I can’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy eating at me when I realize how lucky my friends are. I can’t help but envy the mother daughter photos that flood my newsfeed.
I took out pictures of my mom today and felt an overwhelming sense of sadness mixed with anxiety. My heart sunk when I looked at pictures of my mom and me and realized that the most recent photo was six years old. Of course I knew this was the case, but letting it sink in and actually coming to terms with it was difficult. There are no pictures of us now. There are no photos of us at my college graduation, or of us at our family trip to the shore. There are no pictures of my mom meeting my new puppy. There are no new pictures of my parents, or of my mom and my sister. There are no new photos of us for me to share on Mother’s Day.
It’s hard because Mother’s Day throws this lack of photos in my face, with sales on flowers to target ads covered in Mother’s Day specials. It’s hard to escape from Mother’s Day. And I know I’m not alone in feeling like this. Maybe this year is hard for you too. Maybe you are also missing your mom. Or maybe you are missing the idea of Mother’s day; the idea of having someone to celebrate. You might be missing the idea of buying tulips from the grocery store or of picking up a sweet card for your mom. You might be missing the idea of having a family brunch or of sharing a warm cinnamon bun with your mom today.
I’m sorry if you are feeling like this too. I’m sorry if Mother’s Day isn’t what it used to be for you, or if it’s always been hard for you. It looks like we both missed out on the VIP passes to this members-only holiday. It’s hard when everyone around you gets to celebrate on the inside, and you are here, stuck on the sidelines, looking in.
Mother’s Day is hard; there’s no way around it. And it comes every single year. I don’t know what you do to get through Mother’s Day (or, let’s face it, Mother’s Day week). I know that I sometimes purposefully try not to let Mother’s Day bother me. I try to avoid it, by putting up an invisible shield, putting on a fake smile, and pretending the day doesn’t exist for me. But I’ve learned the hard way that this doesn’t really help – it just masks over the real feelings.
The thing is, you see, even if you try to force yourself to avoid thinking about Mother’s Day altogether, by simply numbing your feelings or blocking it all out, it still doesn’t make it easy. Ignoring Mother’s Day doesn’t just make the day, or your feelings, disappear. No matter how you get through it, coping in itself takes energy and it takes strength. It inevitably wears you out after a while, even if you think you’re doing just fine. So it’s important to remember that you don’t have to pretend that Mother’s Day is easy. You don’t have to act all “brave,” or act like you don’t have feelings.
While I’m most definitely not going to sit here and advise you to just try not to think about it, or to try to power through, I’m also not going to suggest that you “force” yourself to feel thankful on Mother’s Day. I’m not going to suggest that you force yourself to feel anything, for that matter. Some of you might feel at peace on Mother’s Day. Some of you might feel thankful for your mothers, whether they are present or absent. And for those of you that this applies to, I’m happy that you can feel grateful on this day. It’s a blessing, and it’s important for you to feel this way because it is authentic.
But if you’re not feeling so grateful? Don’t judge yourself. It is more than okay to not feel good. It’s also okay to not feel thankful. It’s more than okay to feel sad or even bitter. It’s also okay to not feel sad at all. You don’t need to judge yourself for what you are feeling. Forcing away a feeling, or trying to make yourself feel a certain way is only harder because it lacks authenticity. Faking it just breaks you. It only makes the harder. You have to listen to yourself. That’s the main rule of making it through Mother’s day; you have to have your own back.
I don’t know if I truly feel grateful on Mother’s Day. But this isn’t because I’m not thankful for my mom. Of course I’m thankful for her. She was a hell of a mom. But feeling thankful for her and “celebrating” her is just harder for me to experience on this specific day when her absence is highlighted.
What I do feel is discomfort and sadness. I feel upset that I can’t celebrate her in the real, alive sort of way. It feels like the fact that I am “motherless” is being thrown in my face, so this takes over me feeling grateful. Of course I loved and love my mom. But Mother’s Day isn’t the day I can fully understand this.
So remember. If it is too hard for you to find peace today, I understand. You don’t have to try to make peace with Mother’s Day. You don’t have to do anything festive on Mother’s Day. What you do need to do is be judgment free and take it easy. It’s a hard day. And remember that whatever you feel or do not feel doesn’t make you any more or less of a person. I’m not going to tell you to have a good day or a bad day or any type of day. You can see what feels right this year. So from me to you, just have a day. And please, allow yourself to simply “be.”
By Colleen George