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Pathfinding

Holding Difficult Emotions on Mother’s Day: A Ritual

Mother’s Day matters, but not only because some people have a simple and loving relationship with their mom. It can also be a day where we pull out our complex feelings about mothering and unpack them a little bit.

Mother’s Day can be lovely—it’s a day to focus on the people who raised us. There’s plenty of beauty in that, but it might also come with anger, grief, or a feeling of loss. This day can feel more complex than a simple Hallmark card and a bouquet of flowers.

The mother wound is a phrase that relates to the difficulty many of us have had in this relationship, even if our mothers were mostly good. Mothers play such an important role in our lives, especially when we’re tiny babies. They are almost like gods to us: they hold the secret for our food, our sleep, our comfort, our learning—pretty much everything in our lives. That’s a lot to ask of a human being with weaknesses and her own pain to manage! Not to mention what might be going on with the fathers in the situation.

For some of us, the mother wound is intergenerational. Our mothers were hurt by their mothers in the same way that they hurt us. Systemic injustices and trauma can be downloaded from one generation to the next. In the worst cases, our mothers’ wounds caused them to be abusive or neglectful, leaving us with a legacy of pain to process in our lives. We’re not always able to heal the whole line of women in our ancestry in one lifetime. It’s a lot to ask.

[Read: "Things I Wish My Mother Had Said..."]

Many women also grapple with the question of whether or not they want to become parents. Some of us don’t. Some of us want to, but can’t. Some of us have wonderful, healthy children, but experienced years of infertility or pregnancy loss. Some of us are parents who don’t identify with a gender, and feel left out on both Mother’s and Father’s Day.

The upshot is that Mother’s Day matters, but not only because some people have a simple and loving relationship with their mom. It can also be a day where we pull out our complex feelings about mothering and unpack them a little bit. This could be a day where we honor the mothers and mother figures in our lives, but also honor the complex emotions this brings up in us.

There are many ways to think about this day. Are we celebrating a biological mother? Are we honoring our intention to become mothers, however that has gone for us? Are we grieving a lost mother, holding her in our hearts and minds? Are we holding space for our own anger and disappointment that our mothers weren’t what we needed them to be? Perhaps it’s a combination of those things.

We must also ask ourselves how we can better mother ourselves in our day-to-day lives. What did we need from our mothers that we did not get? How could we show up for ourselves and meet our own needs in that way?

A ritual to Explore on Mother’s Day

  • Gather a candle, a flower, some paper and a pen.
  • Gather any other tools you like to use for ritual practices. You may wish to begin with a land acknowledgment or an invitation to the four directions, for example.
  • Sit in a quiet space and light the candle. In any comfortable position, hold the flower in your hands. Close your eyes and breathe into your body. Notice what comes up when you think about this day. Don’t judge these thoughts or try to change them. If you notice an emotion, simply breathe into the sensations you feel, naming the emotion if you can.
  • After some time (5-10 minutes), journal about your thoughts. You might consider writing a letter to your mother or writing a letter to yourself.
  • On a separate piece of paper, write down some ways that you could mother yourself well in the coming week. How could you care for yourself in the ways you need the most?
  • When this feels complete, blow out the candle. The ritual is finished. Happy Mother’s Day!

Enjoy chocolate, roses, and a poem for Mother’s Day.


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