Dear Motherless Daughter on Mother's Day, I See You

woman looking into the sunset

Oh motherless daughter, I see you. 

Dear motherless daughter on mother’s day. I see you, I am you. I know so well that longing. The soul ache that permeates every day but turns to a gaping raw hole for a few weeks in the beginning of May.

We got to this place of motherlessness in different ways.  Some of us had a mother who lived a long and full life and passed on a beautiful legacy, but her absence still feels like a punch to the abdomen. Others had mothers lost to tragedy, taken too soon by disease or injury. Some of us have been or felt abandoned, never truly having a mother at all. Some among us had to mother their mothers because the woman who bore them was not equipped to raise them. And some have had to distance themselves from a toxic mother in order to protect themselves and their family. 

No matter how you got here, it’s a pained and lonely place to be. None of us wanted to be a motherless daughter.

I see your grief and mourning, your hurts and anger and unmet needs.  Grief not just for what is, but for what will never be.

Most of the year, my motherlessness sits quietly under the surface. It is a silent ache and longing for what could have been.  But when the stores begin to fill will trinkets and cards, and the quiet ache turns to a loud throb, I’ve had to find some ways to cope.  Perhaps, my friend, they will help you too.

1. Practice self care by staying off social media as much as possible.

All those beautiful posts from daughters who have what I do not, thanking their mother, posing with her over tea and scones, they pour salt on an already stinging wound. I am happy for my friends that they have their mothers.  However I choose to give myself the day to process, mourn, and heal without the wound being opened again and again.

2. Focus on those who are a motherly force in your life.

Years ago, I began using this day as an opportunity to celebrate the women who have nurtured me.  I take flowers to a mentor who has spoken life into my bones. I reflect on the women who have patiently guided and directed me. The one’s I called on as a young wife and mom when I needed to know whether or not to take my feverish baby to the hospital, or if the ground beef in the freezer was still good, or if I mattered.

3. Allow your loved ones to celebrate you as a woman.  

I don’t need breakfast in bed, grocery store flowers and handmade cards scrawled by little hands. I want to tear the calendar off the wall, for the world to skip a beat and go straight from Saturday into Monday. But I submit to the day and allow my womanhood to be celebrated.  I sit under the weight of knowing that I am an unmothered mother, playing house at a game she’s never been taught, hoping that I deserve a fraction of the celebration I receive. Whether you yourself are a mother or not, use this day to celebrate your nurturing nature, the beauty you’ve birthed, the relationships you’ve nourished, the people you’ve tenderly guided.

4. Take comfort in the motherly attributes of God.

Julian of Norwich famously wrote of God as our mother.  Even if you cannot go so far as to call God your Mother (for better or worse, the hairs on the neck of my conservative Baptist faith roots stands up at the thought) we can lean into the God who bore us and in great pains gave us life; the God before whom we stand fully known, every hair on our head, every tear that falls in private seen and known; the God who tenderly guides us back when we go astray, who looked for us when we were lost and accepted us as we were.

Dear motherless daughter, I see you.  

You are not alone. Our hearts break and scab in common rhythms with the turning of the calendar pages. The loss of a mother, whether her heart still beats somewhere or not, is a searing loss.  The pain is visceral and the heart cry is guttural.  Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel.
Many of us are far too young to have to navigate the world without a mother’s direction and love.

But we have each other. As a church, we can be a community of surrogate mothers, holding each other, tending to wounds, feeding the soul.

May we be that today.

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