Mother’s Day, a holiday dedicated to appreciating all the things our mother figures do and are, is a beautiful thing. For many years, Mom and I celebrated by planting flowers together. I was not always gracious about it. Now I am physically further away and so we celebrate differently. Although, Mom does get a kick out of it when I buy flowers and spend time planting with my daughter. “Oh, now you like flowers!” I am seeing in real-time how those years Mom and I spent together shaped me (and my love of flowers) and are now shaping my daughter.
My partner has this beautiful story about his Mother's Day tradition. He and his brother would get on bikes, peddle down to the florist, and buy flowers for his mom, Diana. I smile thinking about him choosing flowers and carefully bringing them back on his bike. The effort was part of the gift.
I never got to physically meet Diana. She died in 2009, before my partner and I started seeing each other. But her presence and absence is part of our life, and I think that’s right. Sometimes it’s sad. We missed having her there for big moments, like our wedding, and physically meeting our daughter. But sometimes we're happy, like when family members share stories about vacations to Sunny Hill where Diana set the AC as high as it could go and everyone else wore layers in the dead of summer to survive the cold of the room.
Our relationships with the dead, it turns out, are as complex as our relationships with the living.
It’s normal to grieve the mother figures no longer physically with us on Mother’s Day. It’s also normal to grieve the maternal relationships we did (or didn’t) have. The relationships that exist, but not in the way we yearn for. Or that have changed dramatically. It’s also normal to grieve children who are gone.
You can take care of yourself by acknowledging your grief, which can be as simple as pausing when an emotion comes up and naming it. The emotion might be sadness, such as missing your loved one's physical presence. But it might be positive, such as happiness at sharing a laugh together.
You can support someone who is grieving by saying their loved one’s name. You’re not going to harm them by acknowledging their loss. You can say something like, “I have been thinking about how you might miss Diana today. I miss her too.”