Mother’s Day can be a challenge when you’ve lost your mom

Editor’s note: This post gets a lot of traffic from people searching phrases like “mothers day wishes for someone who lost their mom.” I love that so many of you are looking to offer your love and support, and would personally suggest following your heart with something simple like “Thinking of you and your mom today,” or “Are you doing anything to celebrate your mother today? Would you like some company?”

Please, avoid telling that person who’s lost her mother how it’s for the best, that God has a plan and your mother is in a better place. No matter how much you believe that’s true, if I’m missing my mom, the main thing on my mind and in my heart is missing her. I don’t want to hear how great it is that I’m hurting. Just my two cents.

My old colleagues at the University of Michigan News Service issued a press release this week timed to Mother’s Day. It reports on the findings of two researchers at the U-M Retirement Research Center:

Most Americans live within 25 miles of their mothers, according to a report issued by the University of Michigan Retirement Research Center.

The study calls into question a widespread belief that when children grow up, they’re likely to move far away and not be on hand to help out when their mothers get older.

It’s just another reason why the Mother’s Day season is miserable.

I lost my mom to cancer in 2001. Though the grief has eased from a sharp, searing pain to a dull ache, every florist ad urging me to send my mom a bouquet to tell her how much I love her rubs salt in the wound.

I would love to take part in the corny, commercial celebration of mothers but I can’t. I wish I could contemplate whether I’ll live too far away to be helpful when she gets older.

John’s mother died before he and I started dating so I never even had the chance to meet her. My stepmom died a few years after my mom did. John’s stepmother died at the end of last year. We’ve truly mourned the loss of four mothers between us and don’t have a single one left.

Richie Havens sings a beautiful song that includes the line “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.”

If you have someone in your life whose mother has died, consider reaching out to him or her this weekend to offer a quick distraction from those sappy TV ads.

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7 replies

  1. Thank you, all, for your thoughtful, wonderful comments.

    Jill, I remember feeling the sad irony of you sending your dad off on Father’s Day. I suppose in a way, since you’d always miss him on Father’s Day anyway, maybe having those anniversaries coincide is sort of bittersweet poetry?

    Rebecca, I wish you could just enjoy your first Mother’s Day as a mom with all the lightness and joy that should come with that amazing transformation of your life and your role. But maybe it will help Art cope with his grief that he can pour his love into you?

    MJ, I have been thinking a lot lately about what leaving Michigan means for my relationship with my dad. How many more times might I get to see him? When you’ve already lost one parent, I think the impact of such choices feel weightier, but you’re clearly already feeling that.

    Hugs to all of you. Thank you so much for sharing your honesty and emotions with not just me but anyone else who’s lost a parent.

  2. “A long way from my home.” Amen!
    May we all find our godmothers and sisters.

  3. Thanks so much for writing this Colleen – I’ve been struggling with Mother’s Day because it’s my first and that’s so joyful, but it’s also a reminder that we’ve lost Art’s mom, and that is so painful. Thinking of you and John this week.

  4. Lovely, Colleen. I haven’t lost a parent yet but I think about it a lot.

    I haven’t lived within 25 miles of my mother since I went away to school, nearly a quarter century ago. As I blasted off into life, the last thing on my mind was the long-term consequences of living apart from my parents, consequences that I’m now seeing the fullness of. We have a good relationship and I love them very much, but when I think of how little we’ve seen of each other over the years, I feel such loss. And I know they feel it too. But I wasn’t going to live in Crest Hill and they turned out to be extremely un-avid travelers, so there it is. It’s not going to change now, so I’ve made peace with it as best I can.

  5. Thanks for sharing your story, Colleen. I approach Father’s Day with the same trepidation. My dad’s funeral was on Father’s Day. Sigh. This year, my brother is flying up so we can spend the holiday together. The loss of a parent is tremendous, something I truly believe we will never fully recover from. But with the love of our family, spouses, special friends, the pains seems to become manageable.

  6. Hugs to you Colleen!


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