Mother’s Day. It’s roses and balloons, poems and sweet little notes. It’s kisses and hugs. It’s the beautiful little ceramic box my then-9-year-old son got me in Brooklyn (with the help of my mom, visiting from France) reading, “A mom’s love is the best gift of all.” It’s the beautiful note he wrote, saying “Happy Mother’s Day … but mostly, it’s my birthday!”
Mother’s Day. It’s music and laughter and kindness. It’s signs everywhere: outside, inside, on TV, on the web, on social media, on restaurant boards, on shop windows. It’s that day—one full day—where the bond between your child and you is here, for all to celebrate. For you, for your circle, for society.
Mother’s Day is recognition: You. Are. A. Mother.
Until it stops.
I lost my beautiful 17-year-old son 6 years ago. Since then, Mother’s Day has been blades in my heart and daggers in my soul, to say the least. (And not only on the actual day, but for weeks prior.) It feels like a constant attack: There is no escape, and wherever you try to turn your head, you are faced with another commercial, another social media post that says, well, it is happening. Without your child.
Where are you? Where do you fit? Where do you fit without disrupting people, society, and norms? Without disrupting the order of things? Where do you fit when there will be no balloons, kisses, hugs, or flowers? When there is just you and the constant reminders of the absence?
In 2010, a mother created International Bereaved Mother’s Day. It’s “intended to be a temporary movement [and] … a heart-centered attempt at healing the official Mother’s Day for all mothers.”
CarlyMarie, who started International Bereaved Mother’s Day, says on the website, “I believe that we can do this and that sometime in the near future there will be no need for this day at all because all true mothers will be recognized, loved, supported and celebrated.”
My friend Irene Vouvalides, who is a board member of the support group Helping Parents Heal, gave me good advice when she told me, “We celebrate Mother’s Day as we celebrate the bond created by mother and child. We are mothers, always, regardless of whether our children walk this earth or not.”
My son’s birthday is on May 11, so it usually falls a few days before or after Mother’s Day; sometimes his birthday is on Mother’s Day itself. The first years after his death, this has compounded my pain in ways that I can’t put into words. I was unable to step outside to listen to children’s laughter, to hear the music, the noise, see the full restaurants, the cards and flowers and balloons and kisses.
Irene told me that through the few years since our children died, she is finding that Mother’s Day has become “less tortuous and more peaceful.” Every year now, she buys something for herself in her daughter’s name. This year, I will do the same.
I used to say, “We are still mothers.” This year, I am saying, “I am your mother. Here. Yesterday. Always.”
It’s still a process, but I’m starting to understand and accept that we can still honor Mother’s Day. Even though our children are no longer physically present, our children—my child—are still here.
I love you, Keanu. I blow kisses to the sky today and on this Mother’s Day, and I thank you for being my amazing son, today and always.