A Mother's Day with Grief
Like other holidays that have come and gone during COVID-19, Mother’s Day will be a lonely holiday for many this year. Quarantine has most people separated from their Mom, unable to celebrate with family and children the way they usually do. Some have lost their Mom this year, and for the first time, they will face Mother’s Day with a hefty serving of grief and loneliness, instead of cake and chocolate. Some mothers lost a child this year, and they will be missing the hugs, hand made cards or Mother’s Day call from them for the first time. Instead of celebrating, their hearts will ache for the moments when they used to share a fancy meal, and curl up in front of the TV for a movie, belly, and hearts full. The first Mother’s Day without Mom stings like a swirl of murder hornets even without a pandemic taking place. But this year, Mother’s Day will be exponentially more painful for the “newbies” to mother loss, especially those who are quarantined alone, without friends or family for support. A day we typically spend honoring the tremendous effort, and sacrifices mothers make for their families, will be intertwined with pangs of longing for those who are not with us. Which is why it is crucial we find ways to co-exist with sorrow. As humans, we instinctually turn away from perceived threats as a means of protection, and in modern times, emotional pain has become one of our greatest enemies. We run from it like the plague (see what I did there?), and we try to shove it out of our conscious experience by distracting or numbing ourselves until it goes away. But this year, considering all the turmoil we’ve been through collectively, I am deciding to stop running and hiding from the emotions. For the last 14 years, I have spent the majority of my grief in anger. As much as I’ve tried to deny it, manage it, rationalize it, and wish it away - subconsciously, I am angry. Not just mad, but rageful at times. Not all the time, but when I am feeling weak or run down, anger is my go-to emotion. Because for me, anger is more comfortable to access than sadness, but also because it is an entirely human experience to be angry over the inconceivable sudden loss of my Mom. This Mother’s Day, as a gift to my Mom, I’m going to stop ignoring what I feel. I know she would want me to because it’s the only way to heal and find peace with what happened so many years ago. I’m going to wallow in the guilt and let it ring me dry of tears, and after 14 years, I’m talking about it openly. Through therapy and my experience as a psychotherapist, I’ve learned that what stays in the dark is what holds the most power over us. On Mother’s Day, I’m going to take this opportunity to allow myself to feel my emotions without immediately trying to extinguish the pain. And then, I’m going to notice and observe, without judgment, what they truly are: vibrations in my body, stimulated by my brain, in response to a thought. It’s incredible how easily thoughts can have me spiraling out of control, and that’s okay too. If this happens, I will remind myself that disturbing thoughts are a normal part of grief (and life in general). Distilling the process down to these incremental parts reminds me that the most feelings can ever be are uncomfortable, and in time, they will pass. I find this to be a huge relief. Feeling uncomfortable is already a part of everyday life in quarantine. Painful emotions, while not always enjoyable, are ultimately less harmful if we give them space to exist. In that space, we can let pleasure and joy enter back into our hearts, eventually. While we may not choose to pursue feeling uncomfortable regularly, being in discomfort is where we have our most enormous power to overcome adversity and ignite inner growth. It motivates us towards change, and it reminds us that experiencing pain is part of the roller coaster ride of being alive. We are built for this! We can’t have the highs without the lows. So on this low day, during this low time, I am inviting my old pals, "grief and guilt" to share these moments with me. What feelings can you welcome to come and visit you, if only for a short time? *Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this is not psychological or medical advice. If you are experiencing acute distress, having thoughts of harming yourself or others, are unable to eat, sleep, or function in daily life, please seek the help of a medical professional.