When Mother’s Day is Hard


School supplies show up in July. Halloween arrives the second after school starts. Thanksgiving gets ten feet of shelf space and watches Christmas march in on November 1. Red hearts on New Year’s. Shamrocks on February 15th.


Mother’s day has been coming since the end of March.


But I’m not ready.


It’s just a day.

To celebrate the woman who gave you life. The woman who made your life.


A day to celebrate who you became when you gave life.


It’s not a day to waste.


There’s no reward in denying little pamperings from the three little lives I’ve born. Yet I can’t avoid the pain this day brings either.


It’s just a day, but it’s a hard one for some of us.


Last year, my children offered homemade cards of dragons and rainbows and flowers, read through with weepy eyes, after a breakfast in bed with my adoring companions. For something like six seconds, everyone was happy. The sweetness of those moments distracted the always-ache in my heart.


How many Mother’s Days will I get with them?


How many will they get with me?


Will it be more or less than I had with my mom?


Mothersday walltree20140511


MothersDay kids20140511


On Mother’s Day two year’s ago, I constructed a wall. I planted a tree. I wanted to build, grow, and nurture Proof. 

Of my mother love for my children. Maybe of my mother’s love of me.  


MothersDay reaching 20150510




Last year, I wanted to work through it with the power and ache of words.

I will write and be brave, I thought.

I will share my story and this will be enough. I will scratch the surface and then I’ll be finished.


  LTYM me

But it’s never finished. I simply started to bleed again. No one is ever done with this work.  



My dad was the photographer. My mother the labeler. If we went through the albums and the drawers full of photos in my childhood home, we’d inevitably find some pictures with “Mother’s Day” and a year written on the back in my mother’s delicate script.


I have no recollection of our Mother’s Days together, save our last. Maybe I’d remember with a prompt of a picture. But without?


Who, then, is the real memory keeper?


The one who possesses the picture in hand?


Or the one who knows it’s significance?


The memories are yet one more thing I’ve lost.


The last of our eighteen is the one I remember. Not for what we did or where we were, but for the emotional brand seared into my heart. I remember my gifts. Because I was the holder of their significance.  


She was dying. But we didn’t acknowledge it.

She was dying. But we thought maybe she wouldn’t.

She was dying. And I knew it would be our last.



The first Mother’s day without her, like an anniversary gift of paper, I gave tears.


Ever and always on a Sunday, and since we ever and always attend church on Sunday, I stepped over the threshold of the building where my parents brought us faithfully, my eyes brimming full.


If I could do it over, I would have stayed home. Asked for permission to sit this one out.

It can be too much to face people who continue their lives, as they should, on a day that’s still so deeply black and blue. It can be too much to face God in His house on a day He made, but you are too wrought out to rejoice in it.


Two years later, my first Mother’s Day as a married woman, we visited my husband’s parents to celebrate the day with his mom. Ever and always on Sunday, and ever and always in church, a wave of grief hit with the first words of the opening prayer.


Dear Lord…


Excusing myself to the restroom, I hid in the cold tan stall, pressing my eyes with rough toilet paper, unwilling to give my tears the joy of running down my face. I was an expert cryer by this time; absorbing tears as they came out avoided the wiping and rubbing, so when I left, which I’d have to do eventually, maybe my face wouldn’t look as if I was still grieving the death of my mother.


An upholstered bench next to the baby room was the closest I could get to the sanctuary. Wet tissue held at my side in a fist of security.


Each year is different. Every year is the same.


Once, a friend simply sat with me on one of those ever-and-always benches.


“Is it still hard?”


Throat too tight to speak, tears dropping defiant onto my lap, I could only nod.


Yes. It’s always hard.  


But there came a year when I gave more than tears and I presented my own new motherhood memories, made of smiles and tiny hands. I kept them, the ones only I could label with the date and place, in a green cardboard box in my head.


ToMomcard 20160421


Years later, it’s full of bright blue sunrise eyes and flush soft cheeks, excited hands offering folded markered computer paper with M-O-M written on the front.


My young hurt bandaged by three layers of healing light haired blue eyed children.


Every year, Mother’s Day approaches, ready to make a fresh cut through my old scar.


As I sit through church, ever and always, on the Sunday of Mother’s Day, the grief isn’t gone.


The hurt has changed, mixed with inexpressibly joy, making the bittersweet solution I have no choice but drink.


Cherrytree 20150413

Mother’s Day is lovely, but it isn’t always soft and warm.


To those hurting on Mother’s Day, you’re not alone.

For those of you who are fresh with grief and this day finds you raw, you are not alone.

For those who ache to be called mother, who wait and hope and dream next year will be different, you are not alone.

For those who miss their mothers, still here, but so very far away, you are not alone.

For those of you who miss your children, you are not alone.


And for those who have only enjoyed Mother’s Day — be happy, for you are not alone.



Sonya Spillmann


  1. Mother’s Day is such a complex, fraught, emotion-filled time. Thank you for sharing this, and reminding us that the difficult emotions don’t necessarily go away once there are kids to share it with.

  2. Wow. So beautifully and tenderly written. Thank you for sharing and for not ending it without encouragement to others!!

  3. Said so well. So much of it is me. Thank you for putting into words what I couldn’t say. Thank you. ~ joan

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