Grief is like the ocean. It comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim. -Vicki Harrison
It might seem on the outside to be an innocent holiday that features smiling, off-duty moms, breakfast in bed and handmade cards of love.
I have quite a few adorable crayon-colored Mother's Day cards in a photo box and they are treasures to my heart.
But there are other secret treasures buried among them.
These are the cards that my husband left on the kitchen table in the early morning light that never failed to mention how he appreciated me as the mother of both of our girls.
One here, one above.
After the loss of our second daughter, Mother's Day became a complicated, tender and sometimes weighty holiday, with landmines to dodge, social media to avoid and tears to release.
And there are as many stories about grief as there are moms who have lost children.
In my orb alone, I know of moms (and dads, we love you, too), who have lost children to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, cancer, drugs, alcohol, suicide and gun violence.
If it hasn't happened to you or someone close, it's hard to imagine, isn't it?
But let's stay with this for a moment.
On the other side of life, we all have friends who have lost their moms, and the Mother's Day holiday can leave them feeling invisible and out of place, carrying a mom-shaped hole in their hearts that never leaves.
And what of those who carry regrets about their relationships, or lack thereof, with their moms? Or those who had moms who, for whatever reason, were unable to be present in the loving mom sort of ways?
THE COMPASSION WITHIN
When we reach deep into our hearts where the compassion lives, we recognize that this upcoming holiday can be pretty rough for about half of us.
I'm guessing on that number, but you see what I mean. This is a lot. For a lot of us.
So instead of ignoring what can be a pretty isolating time for some - during what has been a pretty isolating year for all - perhaps we can do something kind.
Yes. Something small, simple and kind.
For a friend who is grieving. Or for yourself in your time of grief.
Kindness is a balm. A soft blanket. A gentle hug.
Perhaps we can expand our understanding of grief and take a few small actions of loving kindness toward ourselves and others that remind us that we belong to each other.
And we are not alone.
All that we love deeply becomes a part of us. -Helen Keller
SMALL KINDNESS IS BIG COMFORT
If you have a friend who has lost a child or their mom, reach out in some small way to recognize this holy moment in time.
You can send a text, an email, or a pretty card they can leave out as a comforting reminder of your love; one that may become a beloved treasure in a photo box one day.
If the loss is a miscarriage or infant loss, let them know they are seen, that they are a beautiful mother.
For any kind of loss, child or mom, tell them you know this day is hard for them, that you love them, and you are thinking of them.
That's all. Short and sweet.
I remember a time early in grief when a friend sent me a box of chocolates. I think I had my first post-loss smile over that. It just felt lovely.
Sending flowers is a beautiful way to say: I love you. I see you. I'm thinking of you.
If you, my dear, are the bereaved, sometimes for holidays it helps to plan ahead.
Many churches are now open and some have rituals for Mother's Day that can unintentionally hurt a grieving heart.
We hear countless stories in our grief group about walking into the church on Mother's Day and coming face to face with a smiling person handing out roses to the moms.
Or, at some point during the service, the moms are asked to stand up and be recognized.
If you've had an early loss, do you take a rose? Do you stand up? These might be public statements of what you have not shared with many.
So, it helps to consider ahead what you will do.
And if you choose not to take the rose and or stand up, know, in your heart, that you are a beautiful mother just like all of the moms standing with roses.
You are a mother.
Grief is not a sign of weakness or lack of faith. Grief is the price we pay for love. -Darcy Sims
It can be especially hard to look at other people celebrating what you are grieving.
If there is the possibility that seeing the happiness of others will inflict even more pain, Mother's Day is a good day to take a social media break.
On the other hand, this may be where you choose to share the loss with your people.
Whether you share on social media or not, do it on your terms.
You are the guardian of your grief. -Donna Matz
If your Mother's Day involves both celebrating and grieving, it might help to pre-grieve the holiday.
That's when you choose another day to acknowledge your loss.
Maybe it's a week ahead. This Sunday, May 2nd, is International Bereaved Mother's Day.
Pre-grieving is planning a different day or hour when you visit the grave, sit in their room, look through some pictures, have a talk with them, light a candle, write in your journal, allow tears to flow.
However you connect best with your beloved, this is your time to gently hold it all in your heart or share it with the family - your way.
Another path is to share some special time with your friends or family, virtually or in person where possible.
I have a friend who is gathering a few buddies for an outdoor lunch a few days before Mother's Day to celebrate our moms, those here and those who have gone before us.
I love that we can hold space for each other's grief and gratitude.
Staying in bed and ignoring Mother's Day altogether is also a perfectly good strategy. Have some decadent snacks and binge watch that series you've had your eye on. No guilt. This is your grief.
Nature is always ready to welcome us into her arms and has a way of holding the feelings that are too big for our hearts.
A walk, a hike, a visit to a riverside, a garden or a mountain top are always soothing for our souls.
Tradition and ritual are powerful ways of honoring who we are and who we are becoming.
Here are a few simple ways to create a small ceremony for your heart:
* write a letter to your loved one
* write a letter from them back to you
* plant something in their honor
* light a candle and say a prayer
* pamper yourself with a special treat
* revisit a favorite meal or activity of your beloved
* reach out to someone else who is suffering
* write a blessing for the day
Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortality. -Emily Dickinson
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
My mother will be 90 years old in a few weeks.
It's been almost two years and she wakes every morning with the loss of my younger brother, Tommy, weighing heavily on her heart.
Mom and I, along with my daughters, one here and one there, will be celebrating all of life and loss with you on Mother's Day.
And although I use the word loss, I know that our loved ones are not lost at all.
But right here with us in every moment.
As alive as we are.
Living alongside us in spirit, and also in our hearts.
In the mess and in the mystery;
In the broken-heart and in the beautiful;
In the tears and in the tenderness;
In the hardest days and in the hope;
In the grief and in the grace - they are here.
And you are not alone.
Remember that always. You are not alone.