So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

Just the other day I was driving along in my car, listening to vintage hip hop and waving my hands in the air like I just didn’t care, and before I knew what was happening the radio DJ was blabbering in my earhole, saying something totally heartbreaking like:

“When we come back from the break I’m going to be giving you some great gift ideas for Mother’s Day, and I know everyone is going to want to stick around for that, because who doesn’t have a mother?” And my hands dropped and my mood dropped and I answered him out loud even as I turned the radio off.

Me. Also, my sister. My Dad. Some of my favorite friends. People who have reached out to me. People who haven’t. Maybe you, if you are reading this post.

And if you are, this is for you:

First, let’s clear the air a little,  dear one:

I know Mother’s Day kind of blows.

Now maybe–like me–your mother has passed. Or maybe–like me, before that-your mother is still here but is no longer able to mother you in any real way. And while they are different things, of course, they sure seem to me to be two sides of the same tough coin. And either way if you’ve been where you are long enough you have likely learned that with the passage of time and a lot of practice you can usually start to patch together what resembles, on most days, a full and vibrant life, despite having a hole through your hearts.

Mother’s Day is not most days.

There are other hard days too of course: birthdays and death-days and holidays and random Tuesdays in October when you wake up from a dream where your mother was sitting next to you as you slept and softly stroking your hair; but this one is especially hard. On Mother’s Day it’s like the whole world has turned pastel and covered itself in carnations and assorted platitudes of perfection and wholeness and you are watching from the sidelines, incomplete.

And that’s frustrating because you know you have done this work already. You have been wearing your grief for some time now: maybe it’s weeks or months or maybe years, adjusting yourself under its weight and growing under it and around it and eventually, through it. In fact, let’s be honest here: you are an amazing beast-mode goddamn grief superhero, really, because despite having been dealt a decently crappy hand you are still out there every day getting up and facing the world and being a person.

And you get a little comfortable in it, even, and start to think: “I can do this, maybe. I can keep going.”

Then along comes Mother’s Day.

And you wake up and all of a sudden it’s like day one again and all that work hasn’t happened yet and wounds that you know you worked to heal are fresh and raw again and you’re all “seriously, universe? What did I do wrong? What did I miss?”

I’m here to tell you, lovies: I think it’s time to lower the bar.

A quick story:

When my sister called me to tell me that our mother had died, I was sitting in my car in the parking garage, getting ready to leave work. “It’s Mom,” she said, “she’s gone.”

Ever classy, I said the only words I could spit out: “shut the f**k up.” Three times. I know this, because I counted.

And then I forgot how to breathe.

The car was warm– it was September but the weather was like summer still–and the steering wheel was hot enough from the afternoon sun to leave a mark on my pregnant belly where I pressed up against it. Everything turned red and sweat started to run in rivulets down my back and I heard my heart drumming in my ears, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember how to exhale.

It was terrifying.

And then there was a woman, hands pressed to the window of my car, mouthing “are you okay?” at me when I met her kind eyes. Her breath on the window left a small oval of condensation, and I studied it as it grew smaller and smaller, fading.

I watched her breath.


And just like that I remembered, exhaled hot stale air all at once and with enough force to lift a sweaty curl from the middle of my forehead.

This, my sweet friends, was a victory. It doesn’t sound like much, I know. After all I had 33 years of experience with breathing, and for all of that time before it had come easily and without a second thought.

But this was a new time.

After breath–and with the passage of more time and a lot of practice–came a whole series of many more grief-victories (and also some terrible grief-defeats), none of which I really have to tell you about today because you are living through your own and already know that story all too well.

My one and only point is simply this:

Lower the bar today. Go easy.

After all, sometimes just breathing is a victory.

This article originally appeared on

Liz Petrone

Liz is a mama, yogi, writer, warrior, wanderer, dreamer, doubter, and hot mess. She lives in a creaky old house in Central New York with her ever-patient husband, their four babies, and an excitable dog named Boss, and shares her stories on She can also be found on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

Dear Grandmother, I’m Not Ready to Lose You

In: Grief
Elderly woman and granddaughter touch foreheads

I had a visit from my grandmother the other day. It wasn’t a regular sit on the porch with a cup of tea kind of visit. It was more of an “I have something I need to tell you” type of visit. She’s been unwell for some time, and I guess I had sort of hoped she would get better, and she would be back to herself soon enough. I noticed when she sat down and tears filled her eyes that it wasn’t going to be a normal conversation. Her eyes widened and she struggled to get her words out without...

Keep Reading

Love Carries On in the Ones We Raise

In: Grief, Motherhood
Mother and son hug

From a very young age, two of the most important men in my life were my grandpa and my brother. I never could have imagined that I’d lose them both within nine months, nor could I predict the profound effects the magnitude of those losses would have on my life. My grandpa was my father figure and shepherd. I have endless memories of him— from splashing in the ocean together to shopping each Easter season for my Easter dress. He was always there. Every choir concert, musical, or school ceremony, I could easily find his face in the crowd. I...

Keep Reading

Friends Can Be a Sanctuary

In: Friendship, Grief
Group of friends hugging

A sanctuary is defined as anywhere people go for peaceful tranquility or introspection. My friends became my sanctuary when my husband, Frank, died. They became my refuge and my safe place. Friendship is one of the most wonderful gifts in this world. It is beautiful, comforting, ever-changing, and, for me, a fixed point.  My friends seemed to know exactly what I needed and when I needed it. Their love and constant support got me through the worst of times and gave me the courage and confidence I needed to move forward.  I could never give an adequate thank you to...

Keep Reading

All I Wanted Was For My Baby To Stay Alive

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Sad woman with head in hands

Today is the day I’ve dreaded and resisted for almost a year: the day I face going through the white plastic bag the hospital sent home with me after my D&C, 10 months ago. This bag held my clothes, shoes, and wedding ring for the short time I was in surgery, but I rescued all of those precious items soon after waking. The items that remain show the paper trail of that difficult day—receipts from my hospital admittance and anesthesia, general post-operative care instructions, and a consent form for “treatment of incomplete abortion.” That last part brings tears to my...

Keep Reading

My Husband Makes Me a Stronger Woman

In: Grief, Loss, Marriage
Daddy standing over hospital crib with infant, black-and-white photo

A little over a year ago, my husband and I went through the unimaginable. We lost our child, Lillian, to a congenital heart defect. The days following that, and even to this day, people will comment on how strong I am. How well I’ve dealt with this darkness. How they can’t imagine what I am going through. The truth is I was never alone. From the day we found out I would give birth to a child who had complex heart defects, my husband has been there. Always in the background of what others saw but ever so present in...

Keep Reading

Mothers Don’t Teach Us How To Live Life Without Them

In: Grief, Grown Children, Loss, Motherhood
Woman in dress with corsage, smiling color photo

When you’re a little girl, you dream of marriage, children, a career, and memories that you will cherish forever—and you want your mother by your side at all times. Our mothers teach us how to live a life we will enjoy, but they never teach us how to live a life without them in it. Our mothers don’t tell us that one day they will not be here to answer the phone when we call or go on spontaneous dinner dates. My mother never told me there will come a day when she will be gone and how bad it...

Keep Reading

When Mother’s Day Feels Awkward, Find Comfort in Community

In: Grief, Living, Loss, Motherhood

Mother’s Day can be beautiful for some women. It can be hurt filled for others. Or in my case, it can just feel plain old awkward. I felt eight years of awkward Mother’s Days. In my late 20s to mid-30s, I felt like the woman no one knew what to say to or what to do with. I felt a double whammy on Mother’s Day. My mother was home in Heaven. My womb was empty and always would be. My desire to have a child was filled with an intentional choice to go a non-traditional route to motherhood and was...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Mother’s Day Hurts

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother holding baby near grave, black-and-white photo

I see you moms. I see the moms who will never see all of their children together on this earth at the same time. The moms who dread the question, “When are you having children?” or “Will you have any more?” The moms who pray for that second line, month after month. The moms who are seeing that positive test and don’t know how they are going to make this work. The moms who can’t shake the blues or depression, who feel guilty for not feeling happier about their baby. The moms who feel as though they are doing it...

Keep Reading

My Broken Heart Has Questions, But Jesus Is the Answer

In: Grief, Living, Loss

We celebrated 90 years of my beautiful grandma today. It was lovely and lonely all at once because we lost my grandpa just one week ago and celebrating without him sitting next to Grandma at the table made all our hearts ache. She celebrated the last 70 birthdays by his side. But it was lovely because marking her milestone matters. Heaping blessings upon her and wishing her joy in the coming year was just as important today as it would have been if Grandpa was still sitting next to her, holding her hand in the gentle way he always did....

Keep Reading