My mother had a nervous breakdown when I was six years old radically changing the trajectory of my life. From that point on the messages I received were to avoid being like my mother. For the most part I learned to stuff my emotions for fear that I would be labeled “crazy” like her. Her mental illness led to her absence in my life in many ways. Growing up she was mostly absent emotionally and then when I entered adulthood, I chose to disconnect from her physically as well.
But two years ago, God laid it on my heart to visit my mother one last time. I had visited her twice in the previous six months to care for her after a debilitating stroke left her paralyzed on the right side of her body and unable to speak. This visit was even more painful than the other visits and I feared this was going to be the last time I would see her alive.
It is hard for me to believe that visit was two years ago. My life is radically different now, including the way I prepare for and celebrate Mother’s Day. That is because in the process of losing my mother, I was blessed with the gift of emotional and spiritual healing. As a result, I have gotten in touch with parts of my identity that I had denied and suppressed for years. I tend to think that the way I am now is similar in many ways to how my mother would’ve been had she not suffered that nervous breakdown all those years ago. I am grateful for recognizing that I AM wired like her. It is part of the legacy that she left me and makes me very grateful for her on Mother’s Day.
Another major way that my Mother’s Day celebrations have changed is that I share this special day with Rosa in Spain. Rosa is the mother of Pedro, the exchange student we had in our home the last two summers. Rosa and I lost our mothers within three weeks’ time in a way that has connected us like sisters. Mother’s Day in Spain is one week earlier than in the United States which means I have to plan way in advance. This year I even enlisted Pedro’s help to buy flowers for Rosa from me. It is very touching to now have this mother to mother connection—especially since we have never physically met.
One last thought about preparing for Mother’s Day. Last night during the women’s open share time in our recovery meeting, I asked the attendees to each share something that they are grateful for with their mother’s or with their own mothering. In the past, I think it would’ve been hard for me to answer that question. It’s not that I resented my mother or blamed her for the lack of nurturing and guidance. Those things were out of her control and were not intentional. But sometimes it’s hard to be grateful in the midst of pain and sorrow.
Answering this simple question last night gave each of us an opportunity to practice gratitude—a necessary recovery tool that helps to take us out of our victim mentality and look for the positive in life situations. It was a blessing to hear each woman share a nugget that made them grateful in this way.
I personally have a tremendous amount to be grateful for in my own recovery journey. It has positively changed my own mothering skills, it helped to push me out of my comfort zone to care for my mother at the end of her life and now it has helped me to reach across the world to celebrate Mother’s Day with my sister Rosa.
What are you grateful for this Mother’s Day?