Mother’s Day: Grieving & Gratitude for the Mother I Knew & One I Never Knew
When you’ve lost your first love, your biggest fan, your highest image of womanhood, Mother’s Day is never the same again. A day set aside to express gratitude to her becomes a day of grief.
I really hated Mother’s Day the first few years. I faced Mother’s Day’s Most Difficult Moment if I did not skip church, where the pastor asked mothers to stand to be honored. It was salt in the wound as those who did not know me in our large congregation assumed I was a mother. So sometimes I skipped the whole ordeal and slept in.
Having avoided that grief trigger one year, I drove for an afternoon treat only to be confronted with the ice cream store manager suggesting I put “Mom” on the personal-sized cake I selected. I wanted to put a pie in his face.
(I discuss this incident, other Mother’s Day moments and strategies I’ve used to get through the day in To Mom: What Would I Do Without You?)
Later, I adopted a sort of calm acceptance. I set aside that cold bucket of water I wanted to toss on people’s joy and allowed the celebration to go on around me. I even participated.
You also may find grief offers no consistency. You expect to be waylaid by a sadness that seems as deep as an ocean trench only to discover a quiet numbness. You may even have a good day.
This May marks the tenth one that I’ve averted my gaze at the greeting card aisle. As I mourn the woman who raised me, I also struggle with the fuzzy image of another mother, my biological mother. The idea of finding her and meeting her presses in on me as I realize time is running out.
She’d be about 72 years old now. Is she even alive?
I’d already been thinking along these lines when a friend and I went to see Unplanned at a local Malco theater. Based on a true story detailed in a book by the same name, the movie features Abby Johnson who became the youngest clinic director in the history of Planned Parenthood following her own abortions.
Called into a room for the first time to assist for a procedure, she observes an unborn baby torn and sucked out of a womb. She’s is horrified, quits her job and becomes an anti-abortion activist. I hope any critical thinker will look into her story and include it in their repretoir of information on the subject and before making a decision about where they stand on this politically-charged issue.
I was born before abortion was legalized, though I was not safe. So called “back alley” abortions occurred, and they were attractive to women like my biological mother. She was not married.
Barely an adult, she likely went on to have other children after letting me go. They celebrated her on Mother’s Day. And this Mother’s Day, I celebrate her in addition to my adoptive mother.
I was always aware of her sacrifice, but seeing Unplanned energized my appreciation of what she did. She did not raise me, yet she was exactly what we expect of a mother – she was self-sacrificing. She offered up nine months of her life, endured what was then a humiliation and certainly an inconvenience, only to follow through with the heart-wrenching act of giving me up so I could have what she could not give. I don’t doubt for one minute that her love and grief continued beyond my birth and my adoption.
It may continue to this day, or societal conventions forced her to push her grief away. I wrote about this and the types of losses that are denied by our society in The Grief of the Other Mother.
To decide whether to look for her or to continue to admire her from afar is a very personal matter. It is not simple, and it should not be decided upon lightly. Perhaps one should not look unless they are sure, unless they feel strongly that they must. And I do not. Not yet.
Having lost two mothers, I grieve them both this Mother’s Day. I also celebrate them.
No, they are not here to receive cards or kisses but these many Mother’s Days passed I’ve learned to turn my sights on the beauty they bestowed on me. The beauty of self-sacrificial love.
One gave me life. The other taught me how to celebrate its joys and survive its griefs by offering up my heart to love – as they did.
Where are you emotionally this Mother’s Day? It’s okay to hide away, and it’s okay to celebrate the other mother figures in our lives and the ones in the lives of others.
Copyright © 2019 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. http://www.tonilepeska.com