Mother’s Day is consistently the second Sunday in May. However, Mother’s Day is not always the same for everyone. For some, it means a happy and festive family gathering. For others, it may signify haunting childhood memories. And still, for others, it may be filled with sadness, loss, and regret.
There is no “one size fits all” or “correct ” way to experience Mother’s Day each year. However, you would never know this from the retail stores’ point of view. For them, it’s advertising “finding the perfect gift for Mom,” or flooding the stores with displays of candy and flowers, and let’s not forget, finding the perfect card – it’s all about making money.
And it’s about getting through this holiday in peace and for some, making the best of a stressful day. Let’s take a look at the reality of the various ways people experience this holiday.
We will also explore various ways of emotionally healing during this holiday and giving it new meaning.
The Good and “Perfect” Picture of Mother’s Day
For some people, their experiences of Mother’s Day began in childhood with fun get-togethers with friends and family. Everybody seemed happy and to be enjoying the event.
The adults were barbequing and drinking alcohol, possibly to excess, but all in all, they were genuinely enjoying the event and catching up on family life. Maybe they were complaining of the teen drama in their house, but it was still with humor.
The teens were laughing and chatting about the foolish things their parents would say, or how their parents just couldn’t “understand” them and were so “clueless.”
The younger kids would be squealing with joy and running around, chasing one another.
For the fortunate and lucky “few,” this may have been their picture, or at least the memory they “chose” to keep.
In this scenario, on Mother’s Day, some adults are inebriated at the very least. Some may be boisterous, but still friendly. They “appear” to be enjoying themselves, however once in a while, one may hear them make a “snarky,” veiled negative comment about someone. It could be about a person who is not attending the event. Or it could be a statement about their mate who is at the party.
Maybe they are complaining about their kids’ behavior at home. Or they are bragging about their child being a “star” performer in school. Or they brag about their child’s popularity.
The teens may be telling stories of how they “got away with ” things the parents don’t even know. At least not yet. Maybe it’s about meeting up secretly with “Johnny” after hours when they snuck out of the house. Or how they “faked” a signature from a school report card that parents were to read and sign.
And the kids may still be running around. Some may be having fun, and others may be “faking” it, so no one knows the difference. They “act” as if they are having fun, just like everyone else, but inside they feel unpopular, or “invisible.”
Here is the toughest scenario. It’s about what sometimes most people “don’t know” and remains hidden from others, especially parents. And it’s about the things that go on behind “closed doors,” as they say. The darkness of unspoken truth is where the “secrets” lie.
For some people, Mother’s Day conjures up memories of being physically abused, sexually molested, or ignored and generally devalued by their parents. Or one or both parents being alcoholic. It could be about the bullying of the child by one or both parents. Or it might have involved physical or at least emotional abuse or neglect by a parent.
It may be about secrets the family kept, or that no one addressed the events and the terrible pain it caused the child or family members. It’s about “secrets” that others felt must remain hidden from family and friends. And the victim was forced to suffer in silence.
However, another scenario doesn’t involve abuse or neglect. It’s about the loss of a parent, sibling, or worse yet, a child. Sometimes this loss is not a loss physically, but that a parent abandoned the family, leaving the child or spouse behind, and often with no understanding of “why” the parent left.
And sadly, sometimes it’s about the profound loss of a beloved parent or child who died. And every year at this time, when many others are celebrating and getting together, some people re-experience the loss at a deep level – every year.
Moving Forward with New Meaning and Peace on Mother’s Day
It really is possible to change negative feelings around this holiday and to move forward with a more positive sense of acceptance. Moving forward is Not an acceptance of horrible things that happened and justifying them. But instead, it’s finding some positive things that may have come out of the experiences. Looking for some positive growth gives the negative experiences meaning, and for you, a sense of empowerment that enables you to move on with your life.
When you take control of a negative experience, it is empowering. It gives you a sense of control in your current life and validates that what happened was awful and wrong or unfortunate at the very least.
For example, if you experienced physical abuse as a child, to heal, you may likely need to accept that it truly happened and accepting what was. This acceptance is not about believing that the abuse was OK. Abuse of any kind is never OK. It may involve coming to terms with the repeating pattern of abuse that occurred for several generations.
It’s very common for each generation to fall into the same dynamics they experienced as a child. The pattern of abuse is often unconsciously done. But you can be the one who changes this dynamic in a positive way.
Besides acceptance, moving forward in a painful or even horrific event may involve looking for positive things that came out of the negative experience. Again, it’s not about justifying a terrible event. It’s about accepting that it did happen and finding meaning in moving forward. You can be the one who changes this family dynamic in the future, and yes, even on Mother’s Day.
As you can see, even though bad things happen in life, you can still move on from that by finding meaning from those horrible events of the past. That’s how it’s possible to move forward in life, with peace, positive growth, and feeling more whole and balanced inside.
So if Mother’s Day has always been a tough day for you, make it work for you by changing the meaning of that day. Find a way to gain strength from moving past horrible things in your life. Grow from that past and feel pride for being a survivor and taking hold of your own destiny.
If you find this journey is too challenging on your own, seek professional guidance from a psychotherapist and move forward, once and for all with peace and joy.
You’ve got this!