(Originally published in my newsletter 5/10/14)
No matter what your current situation might be, Mother's Day evokes strong feelings about our families. And with the holiday only hours away now, I'm thinking not only about my own family constellation, but others as well.
As many of you know, my son David was killed in an accident in July of 2011. This will be my third Mother's Day without him. I miss him more than words can describe and I wish he were here.
Each year I take out the Mother's Day cards he had given me in the last few years of his life (the "adult" cards - the ones where he wrote funny or beautiful notes to me before signing). I arrange them carefully along with my current cherished cards from my daughter and grandsons.
If David's absence were the only thing I focused on, Mother's Day would be almost unbearable. But I'm so grateful to have my wonderful daughter and precious grandsons right here with me now! They continue to be the light of my life, and I feel true joy in their love and presence.
Is it possible to feel both the sadness of loss and the joy of gratitude at the same exact time? Yes, absolutely.
I will always miss David; that's just not going to change. My daughter misses her brother profoundly, and my grandsons miss their fun-loving uncle. Having loved ones who share this loss helps me feel less alone in my grief, and remembering him with them seems to solidify his ongoing presence in our lives.
At the same time, I want to ensure that David's death has not overshadowed my life; that I'm not so focused on who's not here that I can't enjoy who is. I have arrived at a place in which I'm grieving my loss and celebrating my treasures at the same time. It feels right.
I know others who are experiencing their first Mother's Day without their mother. (See my article "Celebrating Rose" here.) Even though she lived a long life, it's hard to face a national tribute to the person who has always been there, and is no longer. I'm sure they are also feeling sadness and joy at the same time - sorrow for her absence and joy that she lived a long, remarkable life as their mother.
And I also know a young woman delighting in her first Mother's Day as a mom. Mixed in with all the happiness of new life might be (I imagine) some sorrow in missing previous generations of family who would have adored this eagerly awaited gift.
There are so many variations on the theme of concurrent joy and sorrow; as humans we all have this capacity and I'm sure you have your own stories. Find a supportive person or group and tell them; grab your journal and write them. It's evidence of our humanity.
"You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly-that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp." ~ Anne Lamott
Essays on Grief Resilience