Without: The Unspoken Pain of Mother’s Day
I will never forget the first Mother’s Day after my son Carter died. Only three months had passed since we buried his infant body under a blanket of Indiana snow, and I was raw.
I’m sure my husband Ben and our oldest son Cohen (then a toddler) did something to make me feel special that year, but grief overshadowed it. What was meant to be a happy occasion—a celebration of what I am—became only a reminder of what I was without. Carter’s absence filled all the spaces where he should have been: in the backseat on the way to church, in my arms at lunch, his name on my Mother’s Day card.
I was grateful to have my oldest son Cohen, the boy who made me a mom. I’m sure he got a hundred extra hugs and kisses that day. But I longed to have our other son there with us. The day felt incomplete, a bittersweet reminder of the baby boy my arms ached to hold.
Over the years, I’ve learned to find joy in Mother’s Day again. Like many mamas, I grow expectant of what it might bring. I send my husband not-so-cryptic text reminders and cross my fingers that I will be greeted with sweet treats, a little rest, and a colorful “I Love You, Mama” written in my boys’ scritchy-scratchy handwriting.
But the ache remains. The joy in what I have is never far from the pain of what I’m without.
Yes, my heart will hurt a bit this Sunday—and I know I won’t be alone.
The more I learn women’s stories, the more I realize that few of us are untouched by loss. TIME recently published an article stating that around 30 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. This statistic is disheartening, and it doesn’t even begin to cover women who face infertility, child loss, and the list goes on.
Unintentionally, Mother’s Day holds a magnifying glass up to what death, miscarriage, empty wombs, and shattered dreams have stolen from us. Grief is there front and center, in our faces, and knowing how to respond can be emotionally exhausting.
I don’t share these things to boycott Mother’s Day. Heavens, no. Mama still wants her day of no dishes, lunch out, and an afternoon nap. Plus, Mother’s Day is a beautiful chance for us to celebrate the important women in our lives, to stop and appreciate what often goes unnoticed in the day-to-day.
But on this Mother’s Day, don’t overlook the mamas you know who have lost—especially if it’s her first Mother’s Day knowing that absence.
What’s allowed me to reclaim the joy of Mother’s Day is having people who don’t avoid my pain. They take time to remember, to ask questions. They ask about Carter’s story or how I’m doing. Talking about Carter—even saying his name out loud—makes me feel like his mama, and he doesn’t seem so far away.
Be willing to step into the pain, to be that person for another hurting mama. Don’t turn away because it’s uncomfortable for you, you don’t understand the hurt, or you’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing. Trust me: Silence is almost always worse. All you have to do is take a minute to say, “Hey, I know today might be hard for you,” and then hug the crap out of her.
By doing so, you give that aching woman permission to remember rather than feel like she needs to forget. And perhaps, even on Mother’s Day, she will feel a little less without.