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Perspectives on Grieving

A Mother’s Day for All

Most people who know me well know that I LOVE group go-arounds, which are essentially opportunities for people (when in a group) to take turns sharing about a particular topic.

When I get together with a group of friends, they know I am going to request a go-around.  I want to get caught up on everyone’s life, and I appreciate the chance for others to bear witness to mine.  I don’t like leaving to chance who gets heard, or whether we will really get to the heart of how people are doing.

Likewise, in more formal groups, I find go-arounds to be a quick and efficient way to feel more connected to the other members.  Strangers suddenly become people I know some things about – people I feel connected to in a matter of minutes.

I think connection and feeling heard were things I lacked growing up.  Not entirely, of course, but I must have lacked them to some extent, because why else would I crave them so much as an adult?

I was too little when my mom died (age 6) to have any idea what I needed emotionally.  I took my cues from the grown-ups around me, such as, not to talk or ask about mom too much, not to talk about how our family had changed or what it was like having her in and out of the hospital for 9 months, etc. etc.  So, we didn’t.   And since we didn’t, I didn’t THINK about those things much either.  I just played with my sister and friends, did homework, and watched a LOT of “Little House on the Prairie.”  It is only now as a parent myself that I see how much I was impacted by all that had happened, even if I had no clue at the time.

Like many people who have had a mother die, Mother’s Day (and the build up to that day) has always been a day when my difference, and my sadness, feels stronger.  I think more about her and all we lost, I lament not knowing her better, and now as a wife and parent, I feel angry for her and all that she lost too.

Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) is also so annoyingly public.  By its sheer existence, it assumes that all is well with you and “motherhood” -- bring on the cards, the presents, and breakfast in bed.

But of course all is not well for many people on Mother’s (and/or Father’s) Day.  Here are just a few examples.  Some peoples’ moms have died, like my mom.  Some are ill, some estranged, some incarcerated.  Some people are thinking about a birth mom who gave them up for adoption.  Other moms are alive and well, but push every button you have.

And what about being a mom?  Some people wanted to be a mom but it didn’t work out for them, or they worry it won’t.  Others have had a miscarriage or a child die, and motherhood has been forever tainted for them.

Does Mother’s Day in its current form make space for all these different kinds of people and experiences?  Not that I have seen.

If I were in charge of Mother’s Day (the whole CONCEPT, not just my own), I would downplay all the events, the gifts and cards, and I would focus on the essence of it all.  Yes, let’s celebrate mothers and motherhood, but in an inclusive way that acknowledges what a mixed bag it really is.  Let’s have nationwide go-arounds where everyone gets to talk about motherhood from whatever perspective(s) they have.

In this “go-around world,” no one type of experience owns Mother’s Day.   Instead, we all just get to know each other a little better, feel more connected to one another, and have our experiences heard.  Those are things I crave, on Mother’s Day and every day.

About the Author

Wendy Doran-Paley has been a facilitator with Imagine for 3 years.  She has a background in social work and is currently a stay-at-home mom in Maplewood, where she lives with her wife and daughter.

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