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Mother's Day Blues

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Mother's Day is less than celebratory when your own mom is dying.

sad mom on mothers day

Rabbi Sherre: I have spent years counseling people, young and old, when their parents are dying. Now I find myself in their shoes, again. My father died in 2001 from pancreatic cancer at age 58. It was a silent killer. Within six months, he went from diagnosis to death. Now only 8 years later, I find myself once again dealing with grief as my mother, age 64, battles stage-four brain cancer. Except this time, it is different.

My mother's mother lived until age 98, so truth be told I did not see this day coming so soon. Plus, I thought that since my father had died so young, I was in the clear for a while. So when she was rushed to the emergency room this past September, I never imagined the road that would lie ahead.

As a mother of three children and with another on the way, I find myself constantly pulled in many directions. I am a daughter taking care of her mother. I am a mother taking care of her children. I am a wife taking care of her husband. I am a rabbi taking care of my parishioners. And, oh yes, sometime between all that, I am supposed to take care of myself.

I want to go back to the time before my mother got sick. The time when I could call her and talk just about nothing. The time when she helped drive carpool. The time when I could meet her for lunch. The time when doctor's appointments, treatments, and IVs were not part of our daily conversation. The time when I did not count time.

Mother's Day is coming and I feel yucky. This is supposed to be my day. I have given birth to three children -- two of whom are old enough to understand this is my day. I am pregnant with # 4; I really need the attention this year. As a mother of small children, this is the only day that is even remotely about me. The entire 364 other ones are all about them. So I take it seriously.

Except this year, it is all about my mother. Will we be able to spend time with her that day? Will we be able to go to brunch? Will she be able to eat? Will we be able to smile, laugh, and be happy?

I can't help thinking, will this be her last Mother's Day? What do I need to do to make it the most spectacular and meaningful? She already told me that she does not want to see another flower bouquet, as they remind her of the hospital. Plus, she has been so busy the last few months giving her prized possessions away, what is it that I could possibly give her that she would treasure?

This entire time she has been sick, I have been trying to make each day count. And now I have to make it doubly count? I am exhausted.

Part of me wants to skip it. Except I don't want to set that precedent -- I don't want my kids to think it is an optional holiday. My mother does not want to skip it either. She has made reservations for all of us for brunch in the hopes that it could be normal, just like any other Mother's Day. So I have spent the past week hoping that when she wakes up on Sunday, she will feel strong enough to participate. But no matter how normal the day turns out, she and I both know it is anything but.

I decided after much trepidation to keep a blog about my feelings and experiences during this time in my life because I realized that I am not alone. Many of us are in a similar boat -- navigating the rocky waters of motherhood and daughterhood and grief. My hope in writing this is that together we will find comfort and community, and ultimately some peace.



next: Toxic Mercury Was All Over My Closet!
16 comments so far | Post a comment now
jennifer May 7, 2009, 9:38 AM

Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful thoughts with us. I am in a similar boat. This will be my third Mother’s Day without my mom, and I want to skip the day as well. I am also the mother to three children, and I need to remember and acknowledge that in my grief.
I pray that you and your family have a lovely day.

jennifer May 7, 2009, 9:41 AM

thank you for your beautiful words. i am also navigating that road of grief over the loss of my mother and gratitude for my own children. on mother’s day, these feelings become especially intense.
my prayer is that both you and i are able to enjoy the moments of the day with our families.

Nessy May 7, 2009, 12:29 PM

I totally understand how you are feeling. My mom passed away six years ago. Mothers day is the hardest holiday for me.

Lucy May 7, 2009, 7:49 PM

Rabbi Sherre, thank you so much for sharing your feelings regarding your mother. I lost my mom about a month ago to stage 4 cancer. I very much share the Mother’s Day blues with you. There is no greater holiday than a day to celebrate and honor mothers. And although I am not a mother yet(one day), I have been truly blessed with 29 years with the most amazing mother. For this Mother’s Day, I will be skydiving…I figured I’d meet her halfway! And to all of you who have lost your mother, you are in my thoughts.

nikki May 8, 2009, 11:48 AM

A friend forwarded this to me and I couldn’t believe the similair path our lives have taken. I too am dreading this Mother’s Day, but for a different reason. I lost my mother last month. She was only 66 and had been suffering from a rare brain disease for the last few years. I also lost my father 6 years ago to a sudden heart attack. I am a 39 year old mother of two and am now left with no parents of my own. Before my parents, there was nothing but incredible longevity in my family.Two of my grandparents are still alive and thriving in their nineties, so this was never anything I could have imagined either.
My mother lived in another state and so I spent the last year flying out to see her every 6 weeks and doing all I could to spend time and enjoy her while she was still with us. It was more torture than joy as I couldn’t bare to see her suffering like that. I thought I would feel relief when she died - relief for her and her pain, relief from the stress of travelling and leaving my family every six weeks, but all I feel is utter despair and sadness that I don’t get to call her this sunday or send her her favorite flowers.
I truly understand your feelings of taking care of everyone but yourself, but I also know that I would give anything for more time with her. You are setting an important example for your own children of what it is like to care for someone. Your mother will eventually be gone, and you will have more time for you and your children, but don’t rob yourself of the precious little time you have left with your mother. You are never prepared for this kind of pain. I wish you the best.

Big Mama May 8, 2009, 3:14 PM

I can’t thank you enough for sharing your feelings and experience…

I lost my mother five years ago this month. This is one of the most difficult times for me as May has my mother’s birthday, Mother’s Day and her death day. Every day of this month is a struggle because I can countdown the day until she dies and remember very explicitly everything that was going on.

I want to stay in bed and not celebrate Mother’s Day, but as a mother myself, I work very hard to overcome my own sadness so that my children can have their own happy memories of this very important day. I don’t always succeed, just yesterday I spent most of the day crying (while my children were at school) and staying home, away from everyone.

I love that your mom wants to spend a nice Mother’s Day, and that is beautiful! Though difficult, it is good to do that. It is as important for her as it is for you. Because years from now, you will have your memories to comfort you during Mother’s Day, and please know that you will want the good ones and the funny ones to help deal with the sad ones. I am crying while I write this! Sheesh.

What a blessing the children are as well, because if it weren’t for them and our responsibility to them, perhaps we would be so consumed by our own grief that we would just give up. I found yesterday to be a horrible day, but had to pull it together later in the afternoon for one of my son’s activities. I completely dreaded it, but it was a blessing in disguise.

Thank you again for being brave enough to share your feelings and experience with us, and please know that you are not alone.

Take care and God Bless…

Virginia May 8, 2009, 3:28 PM

My mother has Alzheimers and has been in a nursing home for the past 7 years. Having her there, and then having to spend the day with my mother-in-law, showering her with presents, is how it has been for quite some time. The MIL expects it, never so much as gets me a card (nor does my husband for that matter.)The day sucks. I hate it. I want to go away and be alone. I wouldn’t mind at least an acknowledgement that the day is for me also. Geez, I do have three children!! I refuse to plan my own celebration. I do reserve the right to be miserable though. Not ruining it for my MIL but being silent.

Anonymous May 8, 2009, 4:17 PM

I live pretty far from my kids 2 1/2 hrs. They are spending the day with their friends but they also are mothers. I lost my mother 10 years ago and always made that day special for her. I guess I’m feeling alittle sad that my efforts did work for them. My husband and I will go to dinner somewhere. I know he appreciates me.

Pam May 8, 2009, 4:25 PM

I also have a hard time with Mother’s Day. My Mom is 75, pretty healthy, so I always spend the day with her. But I lost my little girl in 1988 at age 7 1/2, so Mother’s Day has always been hard for me. My Son tries to make it special, but he lives in another state so I won’t even get a hug this year.

Ashley May 8, 2009, 4:44 PM

This will be my 7th Mother’s Day without my mom, who died of cancer at age 58. Even this long after her death, I still have a bittersweet relationship with this holiday. I hate seeing all the Mother’s Day cards because I can’t buy them anymore. I resent the people who still have the option of lovingly picking out the perfect cards, gifts, & flowers for their mothers. I have 2 children of my own, plus 2 step children, but their joy in celebrating my day just makes me miss my mom even more. I thought after this long it would get easier but Mother’s Day is just hard.

I wish you nothing but the best on this Mother’s Day & days to come. My prayers are with you…

Heiddi May 8, 2009, 10:14 PM

Hi Rabbi,

I can understand where you’re coming from. Just enjoy your mom while you have her. I know that it sucks and you’ll wonder what life while be like when she passes, but I would focus on spending time with her. I miss my mother a great deal (died Sept. 2002) on Mother’s Day. I will always miss her and love her. Just love your mom because she’s still here with you. I wish you the best Mother’s Day ever! :) Blessings.

steph May 9, 2009, 12:32 AM

I think it was very admirable of you to take time to share your story during this time. We all fear that day when our parents leave us. I have feared it since i was 5 years old. And now, i am seeing that my mom has signs of Alzheimers disease..one that i kind of expected since her mother also had it. Of course, i am perplexed on what to do..other than take in every day that i can. And i have addressed the thought that she is showing symptoms and she does not want to talk about it…plus she is an insulin dependent diabetic..following the same pattern as her mother, who died of complications of Alzheimers and diabetes. I pray that you will gain strength day to day to take in every moment you have with your mom. Like you said you know the routine and feelings involved by your experience of helping others…and with that you know time is short. I hope and pray that this Mothers day is better than you anticipate it will be. take care..steph

Jane from New York May 9, 2009, 10:43 AM

I hope someday my very young grandchildren will make this a very special day for their mom,my daughter. I miss her the way it is, but spending 1 day or even just a few hours with me is not asking much. I guess I will have to just settle for the phone call. I just really love her and am always there when she needs my help. I come from the old school where my family is a little more important on this day than trying to get some “work done”. I do beleive in Karma. ” What goes around, comes around”. I hope not for her sake. I don’t want her heart to hurt like mine does right now. My Mother always said that “It could always be worse”, and I know she was right. I just felt like venting now. So to all those Mothers out there. Happy Mothers Day

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