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The Other Side of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a day set aside to celebrate mothers across the country. But for those who are grieving for a child, fertility or their own mother; grief can put a sad twist on a healthy American holiday.

On Sunday I chose to wake up before my family and take some “ME time” to reflect on my 16 years as a mom. As I rode my bike along the I came across a mother and her tiny fluffy goslings following in tow. “Happy Mother’s Day” I said to the protective bird. But as I came across women walking and biking on my journey, I hesitated. “What if they lost a pregnancy, their child or they desperately wanted children and were unable to conceive?” “What if her mom is fighting a terminal illness or has recently passed?”

Mother’s Day originated in Egyptian, Roman and Greek times with societies celebrating goddesses and symbols instead of actual mothers. After reading about the history of Mother’s Day, I found it wasn’t until May 10, 1908, when Anna M. Jarvis pushed the church where her mother taught Sunday school for 20 years to start an official Mother’s Day in North America, in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace.

Interesting! A day of , flowers, heartfelt cards and gifts for mothers originated through a daughter’s grief more than 100 years ago.

How does grief factor into health – or Mother’s day?

Grief is defined as “a source of deep mental anguish, annoyance or frustration. Trouble or difficulty.” The synonym is “regret," according to Dictionary.com. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explained grief as a process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, this is not a ladder one climbs and many times a person experiences the stages over and over again.

Grief can affect a person’s ability to sleep, have fun, eat well, work or exercise (all ingredients of staying healthy). It can affect their self-esteem and energy level and unfortunately, if we lose someone — or a dream of someone (like with the hopes to conceive, a pregnancy loss or a child) there is no “finishing” grief.

And grief can affect how someone views even the sweetest and most innocent of holidays.

As we get older becoming a mother is expected — sort of a “rite of passage."

The loss of a child is one that no one dare ponder for fear it may happen to them. One in five couples will experience infertility. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Women have confided in me "never finding the right person" to have a baby with and "forever" missing being a mom. This one day a year reminds them: “you are not a mother."

If you opened your Facebook page on Sunday, you probably came across many posts announcing people missing their mothers. For some the loss is fresh; for others years have passed and yet this one day brings up the grief a little stronger. Some mentioning ‘regretting’ not spending more time or fighting with them in the vibrant years of their lives. The key ingredient (a mom) is missing from this day.

Mother’s day is marketed well with store sales. When I stand alone with no evidence of "mommy-ness" and the cashier at Lowe’s says “Happy Mother’s Day," I smile at how blessed I am and thank them. Then find myself thinking “I pray there isn’t a person struggling through the ‘other side of Mother’s Day’ in Lowe’s today.”

Although this article discussed Mother's day. Father's Day is right around the corner and may stir up the same feelings. If you know someone who has lost a parent or your loved one has lost a child, pregnancy or wasn’t able to conceive, please remember to leave them a note, text, email or a voicemail letting them know you are thinking of them. For those who are struggling through grief, please talk to your loved ones. Tell them you are hurting. Remind them that this day may not be easy and ask them to support you. Consider support groups, mind-body programs, and .

For those who are finding the grief is causing depression, anxiety, compulsive thoughts, lack of appetite or sleep, inability to work; please ask for help. (Feel free to email me for names if you are unable to discuss it with loved ones)

Michelle Garber May 16, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I love this post Lisa - we often forget that there is a sad side to this day. My own mother, while alive and well, now lives too many miles away to spend the day with. We talked on the phone, but it isn't the same. A good friend lost her young son this weekend and a family friend lost her mother. Thanks for the reminder to remember those that are struggling on this day, sometimes a kind word or a hug is all that is needed.
Sara O'Toole May 17, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Once again, Lisa, you are dead on. You are one of the most kind, compassionate and sympathetic people I know. You were an immeasurable source of strenghth for me during my dark days of miscarriages and a wonderful source of support during my scary months of Riley's pregnancy. Thank you for educating others on the "Other Side of Mother's Day".
Myd Nevins May 17, 2012 at 02:17 AM
I never really thought about the "other side" until this year when helping console a friend who just lost her mother. Nicely written Lisa.

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