Finding Comfort on Mother’s Day When Your Mom is Gone

Mother's Day when your mom is gone
The last picture of my mother ever taken – March 23, 2008, her 50th birthday – 31 days before she left this world.

I am part of a club that I wish didn’t exist. I’m in the “My Mom Died Way Too Young” Club.  On April 24, 2008, my mom lost her battle with cancer. She was 50 years young. I was also three months pregnant with my first child — which means that just a few short weeks later, on MY first Mother’s Day, I was grieving my own mother.

Being a mom on Mother’s Day when your own mom is gone is tough. It’s bittersweet. Happy and sad. Joyous and sorrowful. And ten years later, I can’t say that it’s any easier than it was that first year.

But here are things that I do to remember and honor my mom on Mother’s Day. I don’t do all these things every year, but over the last 10 years, these are the things that have brought me comfort on Mother’s Day.

1. Buy cards. This is one that’s hard for me to admit because I guess I think people will think I’m crazy if they knew this. But any holiday that I’m shopping for cards for others (Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc.), if I see one that I would have bought for her, I get it. I always pick out a birthday card for her around her birthday in March. I keep them in a box. Sometimes I write in them. Sometimes I don’t. It’s private. It’s personal. And it’s cathartic.

2. Visit her grave and take flowers. This is probably more commonly done by others in my situation than #1 is. But some years I haven’t, and that’s okay. I used to let guilt drag me to the cemetery even when I didn’t feel like I could handle it. Don’t do that. If you don’t want to go to the cemetery on Mother’s Day, that’s okay too.

3. Buy something she would have liked. It might be a solo trip to her favorite restaurant, watching a movie I think she would’ve liked (or watching one of her old favorites), treating myself to her favorite dessert, or buying something for myself that I would have bought for her. For me, it’s been everything from a pair of earrings to a book to flowers.

4. Take a trip. Yes, I’ve been at the beach on Mother’s Day before, and that year it was exactly where I needed to be. Mom loved the beach. I spent the day relaxing and remembering all our beach memories from my childhood. If you need a trip, if you need to be away, go. I was with my husband and my son, but if you need a solo trip, take it.

5. Say “no” to things I don’t want to do on Mother’s Day. My first Mother’s Day without her, I was pregnant and my husband’s side of the family wanted to see me that day and “help me celebrate” my first Mother’s Day. I was miserable. Barring the day she died, it was one of the worst days of my life. I was being forced to be happy when I was not. I just wanted to go home and crawl in bed. The next year, as a sleep deprived new mom, I declined going anywhere on Mother’s Day except church. I came home from church and spent the day resting and enjoying my baby. Over the years, I’ve gone to after-church family dinners on Mother’s day, but I also haven’t been afraid to decline if I felt like I needed to do something else that day (see #s 1 through 4).

I don’t know how much wisdom you gleaned from the post, but here are my parting thoughts to you . . .

You are a mom, you are what the day is about, so you have a right to spend it however you wish. I treasure getting to be a mom, but the day that is supposed to be celebrating ME is also full of sorrow. And it’s hard when there are other people that think you should spend Mother’s Day a certain way. But if those people aren’t “in the club,” they just don’t understand. Everyone grieves differently, so you have to do what helps your heart heal.

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Tabitha has spent her entire life living in various parts of St. Clair County . . . small town life but close enough to the city to enjoy all it has to offer. She's been married to her high school sweetheart for 13 years. Tabitha spends her days as a blogger and homeschool mom to Gavin, a 5th grader who loves animals, books, geography, LEGO, Disney, roller coasters, museums, pirates and karate. Indeed, he keeps her life interesting! Part of what makes it interesting is homeschooling an only child - it's a unique journey! Tabitha loves libraries, good books, history, traveling, coffee, Disney, sometimes cooking (but never cleaning up), being a "karate mom", more coffee, scrapbooking in her free time (ha!) and naps. Around town, you're likely to catch her "field-tripping" with her son at one of the libraries, a park, the Birmingham Museum of Art, McWane Science Center, the Birmingham Zoo, or one of the other dozens of interesting places in the city - and she'll probably have coffee.