It was the phone call that would change my life. “Honey, it’s not good news. It’s cancer.”

For five years, cancer ravaged my mother’s body, stealing her away from me little pieces at a time until she was gone. I was 34 years old when my mother died, leaving me a motherless daughter. An abrupt initiation into a club I never wanted to join.

I resolutely vowed to ignore the first Mother’s Day without her. I averted my eyes from the Mother’s Day cards and flowers displayed in the stores, I quickly changed the channel when the Mother’s Day commercials came on. Avoidance was my coping mechanism. But it didn’t help. I spent the day angry with the world, with the universe, with God, for letting her go too soon.

I had my first child, a daughter, just over a year later. And every Mother’s Day for years I would struggle with the grief of my loss instead of embracing my own motherhood. I was missing out. On my mom. But also on me.

My grief always overshadowed the day, slipping into the corners, a heavy fog blanketing the air, blotting out the sun. I felt guilty for celebrating when my own mother was no longer here. 

So I didn’t. Not really. Sure, I would go through the motions. I would accept the handmade gifts my children made me, I would eat my breakfast in bed, I would let them smother me in love. But there was always the sadness and it’s companion, guilt, simmering just below the surface.

And I missed out on the joy of being celebrated. Until now.

I finally realized that I can mourn my loss and also be grateful for what I have found. Celebration and sadness can co-exist. The joy and the sting. I can revel in my own motherhood while at the same time miss my mom. And I can ditch the guilt.

And if you are a motherless mother, you can, too. 

You can honor your mother’s journey but also your own. Celebrate the woman who carried you, who walked beside you, who was always there with a hand to help you up. The one who showed you what a mother’s love looks and feels like. But also? Celebrate YOU. The you who now carries and walks along beside your own children. The one whose hand now reaches down and lifts up.

So welcome those sweet little faces who clamor onto your bed, grins lighting their faces as they shower you in kisses. Smile and laugh and find your joy. Take a moment to close your eyes and cherish the memory of the sweet sound of your mother’s laughter and her smile as you walked in the room.

Shed your grief as the warm water of the shower beats down on your face, intermingling with your tears. But shed tears of laughter, too, as you listen to fart jokes and giggles and silly stories that go on and on with no end.

Breathe in the sweetness as you hug your children close, knowing that time is so very fleeting, and smell the wisp of her faded perfume.

Take in the quiet and reflection of the past but embrace the chaos and the crazy of the present.

Hold tight to the little hand that slips into your own, your hand that now looks so much like your mother’s did. Look deep into your child’s eyes and see your present and your future.

Be gentle with your fragile heart, the painful scars of the pieces you have lost and the tender shoots of the new pieces you have found.

Love and laugh and remember the one who is gone. And above all, give yourself and your children and the mother you miss the gift of celebrating you. The woman you have become and the mother you are blessed to be. 

Happy Mother’s Day. To all the moms. To those who have come before us and to those who are here now.

You may also like:

What it’s Like to Love a Motherless Daughter

Mother’s Day Looks Different When Your Mom is in Heaven

A Day In The Life Of A Motherless Daughter

Heidi Hamm

Heidi Hamm is a writer, wife and mom of twin boys who are nothing alike, and their older sister, who won’t admit that she really does like 80s music. She loves bookstores, Starbucks and peanut butter. You can find her on Facebook