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It’s nearly here–Mother’s Day–a holiday associated with love and positivity, gratitude and adoration. But what if you don’t have those feelings? What if you feel motherless on Mother’s Day? 

Perhaps you’re like me and your mom died when you were young. Or, maybe you don’t have a good relationship with your mother, or for that matter, you have no relationship at all. What then?

If you’re one of these people who feels motherless on Mother’s Day, let me share a few thoughts with you.

Losing your mother when you’re young is devastating. And by young, I mean any age, because, the truth is, you are never old enough to lose your mother. There will always be life events that you want to share with her. For some, they might be graduating from school, getting married, or running a marathon. For others they might be having a baby or buying a house.

All we can do in that space is cherish the time we had–the hugs, the laughter, and the emotional nourishment we were blessed to receive. We can also be thankful when she looks back at us in the mirror. Maybe we see her eyes, her heart-shaped face, or her curly locks in our own reflection. Or maybe, we inherited her inappropriate laughter, raunchy sense of humor, or love of Motown music. 

If your mother has passed, trust that you never really lost her. Know that she is there, that she lives on through you, and that when the day is dark, she’s there tilting the sun until it shines on your face. 

If you feel motherless on Mother’s Day because you don’t have a close relationship with your mother, there’s some relief for that too.

First, it’s important to understand that no one, and I mean no one, has a perfect relationship with their mother. It’s impossible. The bonds are so close that you sometimes can’t help but overstep that fine line of hold me tight versus let me go. And sometimes, there is the sad and stark reality that your mother felt motherless too. 

It took me twenty years to fully grieve my mother after she died. I couldn’t process the anger, resentment, and shame that remained from our turbulent, abusive relationship. After countless hours on a therapist’s couch and various modes of spiritual healing, I unpacked my stuffed emotions and forgave her. I learned that she wasn’t loved as a child and she hadn’t been mothered herself. Putting myself in her confined heart space, I realized that she did the best she could with the tools she had. I also realized that forgiving her was less about her and more about mothering myself. 

So here’s where I come out on this: unless your mother is a monster, a true Joan Crawford Mommie Dearest type, I’d bet that your mother loved you the very best way she could. Perhaps from that space, we can feel compassion for those who may have felt motherless too. 

All this makes Mother’s Day the perfect opportunity to thank the countless people who mothered us when our own mother’s didn’t. The teachers, mentors, friends, and neighbors who taught us, consoled us, and listened to us. I surely wouldn’t be who I am without the generosity of time and spirit of the many women who mothered me along the way.

So, during this time of pandemic when humanity needs love more than ever, let’s all take a moment to reach out to the incredible people in our lives who’ve mothered us–thank them, praise them, and shower them with love. 

Because the truth is, thanks to them, none of us is ever really motherless. 


Karena Kilcoyne

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