A Letter to My Daughters on Mother’s Day: Mother’s Day After a Death

Dear Girls,

You are probably vaguely aware that Mother’s Day is on Sunday. I want you to know I love the hot plate, or potted flower, or handprint, or whatever you made me. I will treasure it just as I treasure all the things you give me – every stick figure portrait, every impromptu song, and every short-stemmed flower you’ve stopped to pluck from the ground. I treasure these things, but only a fraction as much as I treasure you each and every day.

I’m telling you this because I don’t want you to mistake my lack of Mother’s Day enthusiasm as having anything to do with you. In fact, the only reason Mother’s Day is even bearable is because of you. This is just one of the many weird things about your mom that will make you scratch your head and roll your eyes from now until the day you understand.

As you know my mom, your grandmother, died before you were born. Maybe I’m being cynical, but for me Mother’s Day is really just an agitating reminder of this. There are a lot of agitating reminders, but Mother’s Day is by far the most egregious. The brunches, the cards, the commercials, the flowers – they all make me feel like I’m the Grinch and the world is singing “fahoo fores” while I’m up on a frozen mountain with my self pity and a dog in a reindeer disguise.

But I’m not alone on the mountain, there are tons of people up there. Some of them are trying to ‘make the best of it’ and some of them are trying to ignore the day altogether. They’ve lost mothers, grandmothers, children, and/or pregnancies and most of them feel emotions ranging anywhere from a tinge of longing to a desire to stay in bed until the day has passed.

I must admit, I feel ashamed of my negative attitude because I truly have so much to be grateful for. I have you girls, I have a wonderful mother-in-law, and I have the love and support of many strong and beautiful mothers. Yet still, I can’t seem to shake my bitterness at other mother/daughter duos, my desire to ‘not make a fuss’ over the day, and my tendency to ‘get my dates mixed up’ and ‘accidentally’ take a shift at work.

You know it used to annoy me when people blew off Valentines Day or other Hallmark holidays with the “I don’t need a special day to love and appreciate someone” excuse. I thought they were probably just trying to get out of buying a heart shaped box of chocolates, but now I find myself invoking the exact same excuse.

Girls, I want you to know I’m thankful for you each and every day and I feel your love and appreciation in every smile, every kiss, and every embrace. You’re the reason I get up in the morning, you’re the reason I fold 10 baskets of laundry a week, and you’re the reason I’ve watched 8 volumes of Harry Potter 3 times each (just kidding, that’s all me).

I can’t promise you I’ll enjoy Mother’s Day this year or possibly ever, but I can promise you I will try and look for the joy…just as I ought to every day. Some things will make me sad, but I promise to try and balance this with the recognition of things that make me grateful and remind me that my mother’s spirit is all around.

You make me proud,
Eleanor

We know Mother’s Day can be hard, still we encourage you to look for signs of joy. Look for the symbols, the reminders, the things you still have to feel grateful for. Even if you only find one thing, take a photo of it and let it serve as a reminder of your search for strength and hope. Share your gratitude images with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and tag them with #whatsyourgratitude

May 7, 2017

8 responses on "A Letter to My Daughters on Mother's Day: Mother's Day After a Death"

  1. We lost my mom at the age of 86 on December, 23 2016. She died one day after she was released from the hospital. My two siblings, against my wishes, were taking her to the hospital for radiation therapy. I tried to tell them she was too weak. I told my sister that morning that her visiting nurse said the hospital didn’t even think she was going to make it another month. But still, I was hopeful we’d have her through Christmas…after all, it was only two days away.

    I didn’t fight with them, I just voiced my opinion that she was too weak to be taking her out of the house for these treatments. Turns out I was right. She died on the way to the hospital. They got a weak pulse trying to resuscitate her. My siblings told them to stop the live saving efforts. My mom was gone. She wasn’t supposed to die that way. She was supposed to die in comfortably at home in her bed. We were supposed to be surrounding her with love when she died. She wasn’t supposed to die in a damn SUV. I feel sooooo robbed of being able to say my final goodbye.

    But I try not to think about it.

    We were scattered. Mom in a room with my sister. My brother was in another room at the hospital. I was at home and had a cousin take me to the hospital. Me and my brother don’t speak on purpose but we’re cordial when we see each other. But we fell out probably about 10 years ago and he has held a grudge all this time. I’m just so done with that. I called him out on his BS and he got mad. Hard to see that man in the mirror. Anyhoo, he did tell me I was right that mom was too weak. I didn’t say I told you. I just hugged him and asked my cousin to take me home. My best friends rallied around me. My cousins rallied around me. I was totally devastated. My legs couldn’t support my own weight. I cried and lay on the floor. There was no consoling me. My mom was in stage four cancer. We talked that morning. She sat up. I took her to the bathroom. I got her tea. I fed her. We talked about bills. We talked. She actually seemed “fine” not like she was going to be dead by noon.

    That’s why her death seems so sudden to me. I’m not angry, but I’m soooooooo upset every time I think about the “where” she died.

    But since my mom died I’ve decided that I was not going to be estranged frommy sister and her college-aged daughter. I do blame them because I was against the “palliative” radiation treatments. It was absurd. Mom really didn’t want to do it, she was just doing it for them and my brother. But I’m NOT angry at them. They’re all the family I have left. My oldest brother died four years prior of pancreatic cancer. My nephews are globe trotting around the world and I don’t know them very well because they grew up in a different state. They did make it her for their grandmother’s funeral and for that I am extremely grateful.

    But through all of this, me and my sister have grown closer than ever. She and her daughter, my niece is really all have left. I don’t have kids. I’ve always treated my sis and mom on mother’s day. Took them to lunch/brunch/dinner. So I’m going to make sure that me and my sister have a good mother’s day. We have to go on. I can celebrate my sister. I decided we were going to do something a little different. We’re going to go to a murder mystery dinner theater this sat. We’ve invited other women in our lives who have also lost their moms before my mom passed. The only person at the table who will have a mother will be my niece. She’s my sister’s only child and she spoiled her rotten and for a while she was this very self-centered person who really didn’t care what she was putting my sister through. She seems to becoming out of that now, but for a while there, I really did not like the person she seemed to be growing into. I hope like hell that being with us on mother’s day can make her see how truly fortunate she is.

    The good thing is that I’m NOT dreading mother’s day. No single day is making me sad. I think of my mom every single day. I have sad moments every day and then I try to move on. But I miss my mom so much. Sigh…

  2. I lost my mom one week before Mother’s Day in 1981. She was only 54 years old and died suddenly from Leukemia. My life has never been the same. Mother’s Day used to bring me to tears for many years after she died. I truly felt “left out” of the celebration. I’m long married now and even though I do not have children of my own, I realize that the memories and gifts my mother gave me last forever. I pray to her everyday and I know she is with me in spirit. I think of her today and the years we could have spent together and how I missed getting to know her. Makes no difference. I still love her, still miss her and forever will.

  3. I just lost my mom this past November, right before Thanksgiving…. Our favorite holiday together. She was 61 and I, 31. She had a brain tumor and fought valiantly and gracefully…. But in the end, there was no cure.

    Because I was there with her for the last three months, it was a relief for me to not see her suffer. For the most part I am ok now but I miss her with every fiber of my being! She truly was my best friend.

    My first Mother’s Day without her is inching up on me. I am grateful I have my three year old son to distract me… But… I just want MY mommy.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thank you for this letter. I get the eye rolls already from my daughter (7) and husband about my quirks. My mother died when I had just turned 8. She was 42. I was so young and it was so long ago. I absolutely believe grief is like the ocean, with many many calm times with some tough storms in between, but I know in my heart I will always get through it. I don’t think I was ever bitter about not having what all my other friends had. I just had an enormous amount of emptiness that nobody (not my wonderful stepmother or mostly absent father) could fill. It took years and years of sitting and feeling that way to just accept it. Accept that I’m a different woman and mother because of my life story. We all are. Not any better or worse just different. If I react to something totally out of context, I will try and understand and try to explain it to my family. As such the eyerolls, but in a good healthy way, with laughter and tears too.

    Hope Edelman’s book “Motherless Daughter’s” was one of the most helpful things in my entire life. For so long I thought about all the things I missed out on but she made me think about what good came out of it for me. It took 30 + years for me to think about my expirience in that way. I hope the same for all the women missing their moms on this day.

  5. This is so lovely. And yes, there are a lot of us on the mountain. We help each other however and whenever we can.

    Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. mothers day is coming, this article is very helpful for those who wanna wish mothers day to their moms,,,, happy mothers day

  7. My beloved grandmother passed away on Mother’s Day two years ago, so this post was especially poignant. Thank you for your advice! I don’t need another day reminding me of the giant hole she’s left in my left, but I could use a day to remember the joy she brought to me. I’m going to try to focus on that a little more often.

    • Lisa, I’m so sorry she died on Mother’s Day. That has to make the difficulty of this day two fold. Good luck trying to focus on the joy, let me know how the day turns out.

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