Bracing for the Mother’s Day Tide

Child loss, Grief, Healing, Parenting, self care

It slowly creeps up on you – shortly after the retailers have cast aside their Easter / Hello Spring! merchandise and shift their strategies to closing the second quarter strong with one of the hallmark holidays mid year. Mother’s Day. Ugh – just seeing the combination of letters boldly staring back at me, stirs up this unsettling cocktail of emotions that triggers mainly the flight response in my body.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Mother’s Day and when I lost my son Jude, it further amplified the mixed emotions I had about this seemingly innocent celebration of honour. But the fact is, for so many, Mother’s Day is a massive trigger point and it can be extremely difficult to navigate the anticipation of the day, especially when there is so much pressure (from what it feels like the entire universe) to celebrate it and acknowledge it, but only in it’s traditional form. I know I’m not alone in this sentiment (despite having a living child in my life who innocently embraces the opportunity to honour me) and I also know that it can feel extremely overwhelming to try and navigate the fast approaching Mother’s Day Tide heading straight in our direction.

Just like there’s so many facades of Motherhood that the day is intended to honour, there’s also so many dimensions to why so many of us dread and repeatedly wish the day away – year after year.

For some of us, the day is just too overwhelming to bear after the loss of a child. For others, the longing to mother a child crushed by infertility or false hope experienced through a rigorous adoption process can make us feel invisible. For those who have lost their own mother, the day can be filled with sadness and longing for our own mother’s love. For others, complicated relationships make it impossible to live up to the expectations of society’s idealism of the day, leaving us filled with shame, guilt and anger. Whatever dimension you find yourself in, the truth is, Mother’s Day is yours to honour however you feel is right for YOU.

YOU get to decide how you choose to honour your own individual motherhood on that day without having to answer to ANYONE.

It is extremely difficult to not conform to the idealism of the day, and it requires courage, intention and boundaries to protect your heart and do what feels right for you. Over the years I have navigated the tide of Mother’s Day in many different ways, but it wasn’t until after loosing my son Jude, that I unapologetically embraced the approach of honouring myself in a way that conformed to my own standards exclusively. Since embracing that approach, every year, the day is different for me. Some years the tidal wave is much stronger, loaded with grief that crashes fiercely against me, while other years, the waves are calm with the occasional undertow that pulls me under for short periods. On either end of that pendulum, I have come to recognize, be still and listen to what my heart is telling me it needs in the anticipated lead up to the day, allowing me to draw upon some strategies I’ve leveraged several times to navigate not only Mother’s Day, but other hallmark holidays that can leave a bereaved parent depleted.

This year, marks my 8th Mother’s Day since loosing my son Jude and one would think that by now, I would be a pro at this, but the truth is, every year is different and every year I rely on any one or several of these strategies to help me cope. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the fast approaching tidal wave of Mother’s Day, consider how some of these strategies may support you in surviving and navigating the day.

#1 “No” is a complete sentence.

Say no. No to brunch. No to Tea. No to Dinner. Just say no. It’s perfectly acceptable to say no to anything that will not bring your heart happiness and will deplete what little energy you have left just to make it through the day. We’re often pressured to just conform to what is expected of us to celebrate and mark the day in honour of all “mothers”, but if whatever you’re being pressured to be a part of doesn’t honour (or worse, acknowledge) your own motherhood, what’s the point? Respectfully bow out and say no. Period. No explanations required.

#2 Stay away from Social Media

The idealism of Mother’s Day is amplified on Social Media, with endless images and anecdotes dominating your feed. Spare yourself the heartache and stay away for the entire weekend. Turn off notifications, temporarily delete the apps from your devices, or better yet, place your phone on airplane mode or shut it off completely. Give yourself the space and time to just honour yourself in a way that is authentic to you and not invaded by what everyone around you is doing or thinks you should be doing. Even if you think you can manage without taking some of these measures — trust me. There’s always something that hits you and it’s just not worth it.

#3 Nurture in Nature

There’s something so healing and therapeutic about surrounding yourself with Nature. Decide to spend the day hiking, biking, walking or pack a picnic if you can and if the weather co operates. If the weather is not co operating, opt for a drive in the country side exploring new areas. Being outside and surrounded by nature will soothe the soul and give you the opportunity to connect – with your child(ren) and with yourself.

#4 Set Boundaries

Decide ahead of time, what your boundaries are. Even if you don’t communicate them to others, it’s good to have a clear view of what your boundaries are for the day. Decide how much time you want to dedicate to others on the day (if any) and what types of activities you want to participate in (again – if any. Staying in bed all day is perfectly fine too!). I always like to share boundaries with my husband so that he knows what I need and how he can support on the day. It’s ok to set a boundary even with respect to celebrating your own mother(s) and mother figures in your life. There’s ways that you can navigate this within a boundary parameter. On several occasions, I have opted to celebrate with my mom on a different day ahead of Mother’s Day as a way to mange my amplified emotions and sensitivity on the actual day. Although not always feasible, I have also purposely scheduled business trips over Mother’s Day as a physical boundary to protect myself and not “have to” be present on the actual day. However and whatever you decide to do, it’s important that you have those clear boundaries noted for yourself and if you choose to, share with others around you that will respect and honour them with and for you.

#5 Honour Yourself, your children and YOUR Motherhood

Whether you need to physically write one for yourself, or get someone else to write one for you, give yourself that permission slip to honour yourself, your children and your motherhood on the day. However and with whomever you want to. Whether you spend the day doing acts of kindness in honour of your children, or decide to pull out a blanket and just sit and spend the day at the resting place of your child(ren) – do it. Don’t be fussed about what other’s around you may think or say — there’s no manual that you must follow. And if there is one, please let me know because I’m yet to find it.

Attend a yoga or meditation class and dedicate the practice in honour of yourself – if you don’t think you deserve it, let me tell you, you do. Mothering a living child is hard. Mothering a dead child is heavy. Use the day as an opportunity to acknowledge yourself as a mother in whatever form it is, and give yourself permission to just for one day, place all of the heaviness, burden, anger and grief down and give your heart a place to rest. A place to be seen. A place to love the mother that you are.

Regardless of how you choose to navigate this hallmark holiday, show yourself some grace with the knowledge that motherhood is a journey. It’s unique to you, ever changing, and needs to be honoured in a way that acknowledges where you are in that journey. Don’t conform to someone else’s view of what it is and how it should be honoured. Conform to you and only you.

Be gentle with yourself and remember you are enough.

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