How we love spring, the season of renewal and new beginnings. After a period of cold and stark respite, the earth comes alive again in spring as the sun creeps slowly into the northern sky. Once again, flowers bud and burst into bloom, birds return with delightful songs, green grass reappears and days grow longer. Nature brings renewal to the earth to remind us that we must renew ourselves, as well.
Spring also makes us think about our mothers as the Mothers’ Day holiday is celebrated in May. The assumption is that our mothers are alive and well and this occasion offers the chance to publically express our thanks. Everything is geared to showing Mom how much we care by giving her flowers, cards, candy and gifts but it can all be quite painful if we no longer have our mother with us. The holiday compounds our grief by reminding us of all that we have lost. Last spring my Mother had been gone more than 12 years, yet I still felt a sad longing to connect with her as Mothers’ Day approached.
We know some things about grief that help to explain how I could continue to miss my Mother for such a long time after her death:
- Grief is not a linear process; it is circular and seasonal
- Grief returns our painful loss to us during the year on birthdays, holidays, anniversaries of the death and other special occasions
- A broken heart can be healed when we cry and shed tears, especially if we gather in groups and can comfort one another (such as a peer group or a support group)
- Isolation can be healed by remembering and sharing stories with others who have also suffered a loss and learning that we are not alone
So, while missing my Mother last year, I read with interest about a Life Cycle Celebrant in Oregon named Shae Uisna who had created a unique community event called “Motherless Mother’s Day: A Celebration of Mothers No Longer With Us.” The event was simple: attendees gathered who had lost their Mothers; they shared stories, photos and brought a favorite recipe of hers for a pitch-in. They laughed, cried, sampled tasty dishes, and by the end of the afternoon, their hearts were lighter and everyone had been introduced to some wonderful and memorable Mothers.
Inspired by Shae, and with her generous blessing to adapt her concept, I hosted my first Motherless Mothers’ Day in 2015 and participated in it along with a group of women friends. It was the first time since my mother had died that I actually enjoyed celebrating Mothers’ Day. Instead of a pitch-in, my group went to a local tea shop and enjoyed a “High Tea” menu as we told stories of our Mothers; we brought copies of one of our Mothers’ favorite recipes, along with photos of these special women who had raised us and shaped our values. We honored them by speaking each of their names while lighting a candle in her memory, and we individually addressed the question, “If I could talk to my Mother right now, what’s the one thing I would want to say to her?” Our responses were touching, highly personal, inspiring and comforting to ourselves and to one another.
This unique and lovely event brought healing and renewal as we collectively befriended our grief and allowed ourselves to be transformed through a compassionate and caring celebration of our Mothers’ love that transcended death. A powerful truth was affirmed for us that afternoon: that as long as we remember our loved ones who have died, they are never truly lost to us. As an unknown artist once wrote, “The world may classify my Mother as deceased, but my heart classifies her as immortal.”