natalie-fox-120572The thing I dislike most about grief?

I can be having the best day, and then out of the blue, something will strike me in just the right way and I’m a sobbing mess. A random thought that drifts across my mind and everything stops.

She should be 14.

It blows my mind that in a few weeks, my tiny sweet baby Grace should be turning 14. The unpredictable teenage years. Mood swings and independence and glimpses of both the little girl she was and the woman she’s becoming.

That’s what’s supposed to be happening in my world right now.

But she will never be 14 and I will never know who she might have been.

These last few years, when she would have been 12 and 13 and 14, have hit me the hardest. I like babies and kids – and I also like to hand them back to their parents. Teenagers? I’ll take all of those home with me. I would have worked my ass off to be a good mom to my girls when they were babies and kids, but I would have hit my stride as a mom when they were teenagers.

There is a hole in my life left by my Grace and Lily that, try as I might, I cannot fill with work and books and busyness. I live and I laugh and I love this life, but I will always carry that empty space where they should have grown.

Grace should be 14 and I should be her mom. I should be her mom who makes her do her homework and pick up her clothes and drives her all over creation. I should know who my daughter is instead of wondering who she might have become. I should be watching her become.

Grief never fails to sucker punch me and knock me to my knees. I have learned that, tomorrow or in an hour or two, I will get back up. I will stop crying. I will get back to living and breathing and embracing this life.

But sometimes, even though I hate it still, I can’t stand under the weight of grief for the child I lose every day. Sometimes grief levels me.

Like when I realize she should be 14 and I should know her now.

But she’s not and I don’t.

I wish she was 14. I wish I knew her now.

photoI hate Mother’s Day.

There, I said it. Perhaps it’s not very spiritually enlightened or evolved of me, but it is honest.

This year will be my 12th Mother’s Day as a mother. An invisible mother, as my daughter died before birth, but still a mother. I’m not proud of it, but even after 12 years, Mother’s Day still brings up feelings of grief, bitterness, and pain. The weeks of ads and cards and commercials and endless talk of this idealized image of mother that pervades every store, TV, and social media site. It all makes me want to shut myself up in my house and avoid all contact with the world.

Unfortunately, I can’t hide from life, and as much as I want to, I can’t hide from the pain. Oh, I am so tired of the hurt. That constant ache inside for my daughters, that ache that feels like someone is repeatedly punching in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.

Not to mention the endless litany of judgment – from myself and from others when I admit my dislike of this holiday.

“I should be over this by now.”
“Mother’s Day shouldn’t still bother me so much.”
“You should stop being so selfish and think of others or your mother instead.”
“You make too big a deal out of this.”
“I should be more spiritually evolved than this.”
“Having others acknowledge my motherhood shouldn’t matter so much, I know who I am.”

But, it does still hurt. It does still bother me. The acknowledgement does still matter to me. I am, apparently, not so spiritually evolved yet.

It’s not as if I begrudge mothers of living children their acknowledgement and recognition. Raising children is hard-ass work and they deserve recognition for it. I love to recognize and remember my mother and grandmother. My mother did not have an easy time with me and she deserves a helluva a lot of credit for that!

I just wish that it was something we simply did every day instead of making a big spectacle of a Hallmark holiday out of it.

Every year I think, “I’m going to do better this year. This year it won’t hurt so much.” And every year I struggle with it. I fight to be present with life while not unnecessarily subjecting myself to more hurt. Most years I feel like I fail at this. I can’t recall a single Mother’s Day in 12 years that hasn’t involved grief, tears, and longing to be part of the “regular mothers club.”

Mother’s Day is still days away and already I’m exhausted. Already the judgment is raging. Already I have cried and had to manage the hurt. Already I am struggling to find the balance between living fully and minimizing pain.

Perhaps there really isn’t anything that can be done to take away the pain of this holiday. It helps, I think, when the pain of childless mothers and motherless children is acknowledged on this day. Being seen and being loved without judgment does help soothe that burning ache within.

And, as much as that helps, not even that can bring back my daughters or make Mother’s Day a happy occasion. I don’t have a nice, neat solution to make it all better.

I still hate Mother’s Day.
I still struggle with judging myself for that.
I still try to engage fully in life.
I still get up and walk with this pain.

I am a mother who hates Mother’s Day. And maybe that’s ok.

Because this is life. Where messiness and beauty live side-by-side.

 

mothers day messI had planned to hide today. To bury myself under metaphorical covers and avoid the flood of Mother’s Day messages on Facebook and all over the stores. To lose myself in books and movies and pretend this emotional day doesn’t exist.

I’ve struggled with Mother’s Day for years. Some years I’ve felt angry and bitter, grieving deeply for my daughters and angry that no one seemed to notice. Other years I’ve done as I planned to do this year, to avoid it, isolate myself and pretend it didn’t exist. Yet other years I focused on my love for my mother and grandmother and for my girls and worked to ignore the pain and loss I felt.

For the last 11 years, Mother’s Day has mostly been about trying to avoid feeling too much. It’s been a fight with myself between being visible and being invisible, arguing with myself about all the conflicting feelings of anger and grief and love and sadness and fear.

I talk a lot about how mothers with no children here in physical form can seem invisible – not seen by the world at large as the mothers that they are because they have no obvious physical, visible proof of their children. Professionally, I work to give these “invisible mothers” a voice, recognition, and acknowledgement. Personally, I fight to figure out how I want to acknowledge and recognize and speak for myself.

I had planned to hide this year. To avoid the dizzying array of conflicting feelings and just wait for the day to pass.

But hiding only serves to perpetuate invisibility. Hiding does not take away the pain or grief or sadness of this day. Avoiding the emotions of today will only serve to amplify those emotions – believe me, I’ve had plenty of experience with this! Hiding from this day doesn’t serve me or anyone.

Not everyone will understand the pain that I and others feel on this day. I may never understand the joy that mothers with physically here children may feel on this day. Everyone has their own experience of this day and likely people will always disagree on how it “should” be handled.

I get that. And it’s ok.

Instead of hiding, I will live this day. I will feel whatever I feel and let that be ok. I’ll go to my spiritual center and acknowledge the pain when the mothers are recognized. I’ll take myself out to a movie and celebrate for myself that way. I’ll call my mother and feel happy that she’s my mother and she’s still here. I’ll think of my girls and be grateful that they chose me as their mother. I’ll cry because they are gone.

I’ll live this day with all it’s messy and conflicting emotions because life is messy. Grief is messy. Motherhood is messy. Love is messy.

If I can’t avoid the mess, I might as well jump in and embrace it.


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