Our Director of Learning and Registered Psychotherapist (qualifying) Kate Love shares her ritual inspirations for a Motherless Mother’s Day.
As Mother’s Day rounds the corner, I’m better prepared this time around. I know it’s an emotional landmine for me, so I’m crafting my ceremony to manage my own emotions and expectations.
Losing my mom, the great love of my life, was terrible. Her name was Mimi, where was no one like her, she was everything. Even though her actual death was as peaceful as she would’ve wanted (and as a former Executive Director of a hospice, this was of utmost importance to her), the shockwaves of grief unmoored me.
In my darkest moments, I felt unbearably far from her and grasped for ways to keep her close. I feared her drifting further and further from my post-Mimi life, and that my kiddos wouldn’t remember her.
I shared more of her story on our sister project, Seeking Ceremony, in a post titled The Most Important Person I Ever Lost.
Two questions haunted me day after day, as I tried to keep being a present mom to my own little daughters:
- How can life ever been as good as it was with her in it?
- How can people walk around drinking coffee and smelling flowers, totally oblivious to the earthquake and the tragedy that has occurred?
Ritual and ceremony brought me back to level, stable ground by providing a real and tangible way to feel like her legacy continued. My challenge was to find ways to connect to her wisdom and her spirit, as often as I could. Basically I decided there was no moving “on” from losing her, only moving forward.
Mother’s Day is a tricky day for many of us. Motherhood, or lack of motherhood, contains all sorts of losses and complexities about our relationships, our hopes, our dreams, our parenting, and everything in between. The narrow definition of who is considered a mother, along with all the experiences left out of the dominant narrative, can come up on this one specific Sunday. I won’t even begin to try to lay out all the ways the day is complex. Suffice to say, when you know, you know.
For me, the fact that Mother’s Day exists without my mother is still painful, 7 years in. In the past it has been a day of celebration, of gratitude and of confusion, of grief. And sometimes all of those feelings layered on top. My kids soothe my soul with their sweet homemade cards and their kind, thoughtful ways they express their love. And even in the middle of all the sweetness and the love, it’s still a disorienting holiday.
The Mother’s Day that I was pregnant I found out the gender of my twins. I went straight from the ultrasound, drove 2 hours to my mother’s doorstep and collapsed into her arms telling her I was going to be a mother to two daughters. It was one of the highlights of my life. My first Mother’s Day after birthing my twins, and as a recovering Virgo perfectionist, my expectations were high. I was a MOTHER. I had birthed TWINS. I deserved a parade. My kids were too young to do much other than gurgle at me, so it was on my partner. And he had nothing planned. When I spoke into my truth, my frustration that he hadn’t considered me, he looked at me with total sincerity and said, “but you’re not MY Mother”.
Here have been my six ritual ingredients to crafting a meaningful Mother’s Day for myself:
- Circle of Women: In anticipation, I’ve reached out before the day itself to the women in my life who I go to for “mothering” I need in the absence of my own mother – a soft place to land in their support and non-judgment, where they can gently challenge me and bring me back to myself and my inner knowing. I’ve thanked them, I’ve praised them, I’ve told them exactly how much they mean to me. I’ve blessed the circle of women who’ve stepped up to the collective mothering plate.
- Setting Expectations: A few days before I start thinking about what I need and articulate those needs to the people I love. I learned the hard way about swallowing resentment – it always comes back up in another form or behaviour. I have realized that no one in my life is a mind reader, no matter how many hints I drop, and articulating my needs is a huge part of the way I set and maintain my personal and emotional boundaries.
- Go Offline: On the day of, I will limit my time on social media channels. Shout outs and the outpouring of love to mothers is beautiful, but it’s something I know I need to turn down the volume on when navigating my own experiences.
- Awaken my Senses: I will make sure to connect to a part of her, bringing my senses into the experience. I will spray her perfume, wear her cheetah print scarf, re-read an old email where she is her vivacious slightly scandalous self.
- Hold Her Close: I will hold her ashes and probably keep them in my pocket or close by for the whole day. Last year on her death-aversary, her ashes attended my kids soccer game and had a picnic on my patio thrown in her honour. Even though they are precious, I might spread a few of those ashes at our farmhouse, the home she never saw, to keep her close.
- Go Gently: I will remind myself to go gently. I will find time to be alone and feel what I feel. I will connect myself to the bigger universal truth that she is my Great Love.
At the end of it all, I offer myself and all of us who struggle with this day to practice self compassion – meaning simply finding ways to give ourselves the kindness we extend to others. There is permission for Mother’s Day to have love, gratitude, meaning, yearning, sadness, grief, loss – all of these feelings, and many more, mixed together mixed up into one complex experience, just like life itself.
You can create your own Mother Loss Ceremony using Be Ceremonial to guide you, choosing rituals that reflect your grief, your story, your love.