The Great Mother’s Day Ache of 2021

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Mother’s Day in the US in 2021 is May 9. The advertisements are already starting. I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile. I think it’s time to finish it.

I don’t hate Mother’s Day, though I am frustrated by what it has done. By elevating motherhood in some contexts, particularly some church contexts, many women have felt great pain.

And it comes with a lot of expectations for families and moms alike. We have made it the highest day for phone calls, the third highest holiday for flower purchases, the biggest day for restaurants (according to one article).

I don’t need to review the kinds of pain in the past. However, I am already anticipating an unusual wave of corporate grief this Mother’s Day. (Chaplains tend to anticipate grief.)

During the last year, it feels like a surprising number of people I know have lost their mom. That’s not just because I’m bad luck. During the period from March 1-December 31, 2020, for every 100 people we would expect to die, 123 people did die. According to that research, if you are a person of color, the rate is significantly higher. Some of these deaths are directly COVID-19 related, some are not. Some are moms, but some are sisters, some are daughters, some are babies, born and unborn.

Added to the loss of the person was the access to the person before and after death. Because of lockdowns and restrictions, people were unable to visit during the last days the way we usually would and then to provide honor in the ways that we usually would.

As a result, we have unspoken stories, unidentified frustration. We missed opportunities to say “I’m sorry”, to hear a last blessing, to feel a last touch.

I’m pointing out this impending wave of grief. But I don’t know what to tell you, exactly, to do.

But I can make some suggestions and invite yours.

  • Rather than focusing on the last visit we didn’t have, we can think about the best visit we had.
  • If we didn’t get to have the last moment of confession or reconciliation, we can write a letter that unpacks your mixed feelings, the things that you didn’t have a chance to say.
  • If we’re not sure what to do on Mother’s Day, we can have the fun that she would have loved to have. Have the parade that she would have wanted to lead. Set off the fireworks that she would have loved to watch.
  • If we never had a memorial service for telling stories, we can have a picnic for telling stories.
  • If we are angry about all the restrictions that created physical separations, we can throw things.
  • If we never had a chance to thank the staff who cared for our mom while we couldn’t, you can send a note to the healthcare facility, care the floor where she was.
  • If we lost a baby or a grandbaby, we can cry.
  • If we have questions about the politics of the last year, we can set those questions aside for a day or a weekend and acknowledge that our family or the family next door or across the street is having one of the hardest weekends of their lives and could use some compassion and care.

There is no right answer, no best answer, that will apply to everyone.

But I wanted to invite you start thinking about it so you can find your answer.


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