The sad agony of Mother’s Day for the motherless

On Mother's Day, remember those who are triggered with grief.

On Mother's Day, remember those who are triggered with grief. Photo: Getty

There they were, earlier than anticipated in early April. Wedged between two stacks of now unseasonable Easter eggs were the cherry pink Happy Mother’s Day cards. And so, in aisle six, my emotional vertigo began.

My mum passed away from breast cancer a few days before Mother’s Day when I was 10 years old.

I was confronted with arguably the most acute reversal of the life-cycle. Mum died before my grandparents, before my first day of high school, before everything.

About 17 years ago, I had my first Mother’s Day crisis. A heat engulfed my prepubescent body during a Mother’s Day Mass rehearsal. I was standing in the choir, singing hymns, when tears streamed down my cheeks. After a fellow student alerted our teacher, she began apologising incessantly saying, “Natasha I am so sorry. You weren’t supposed to be here.”

Rushed to the library, I was told I would be picked up after the rehearsal was completed. I sat cross-legged within the book stalls. Like a child within skyscrapers, I was engulfed. I covered my ears as the tick of an antique clock grew louder and louder. I tried to read a book, but none of the words developed in my mind. I sat alone because I became different.

A few months later, waiting in the school line for my dad, my mind drifted to the times my mum picked me up. Towards the end, the cancer had destroyed her ability to use her legs, so she had her car redesigned, redid her licence, and learnt to drive purely with hand controls. Because that’s just the kind of strong woman she was. As my dad’s car approached, I overheard a friend say to another, “Natasha’s born on the 13th of June, that’s an unlucky number, that’s why her mum died.”

The dizzying heat rose again and the internal narrative blossomed, that I am different from everyone else. I don’t harbour any resentment to this 10-year-old girl’s interpretation. She was trying to explain the unexplainable, make sense of the senseless.

Narrative of isolation

This narrative of isolation has been reinforced repeatedly in my life through our culture’s emphasis on the Australian nuclear family. The supposed Aussie dream of two heterosexual parents, a bunch of kids, and a labrador out the back, excludes the diverse reality of what Australian families look like.

The blanketing of our societies in whitewashed advertisements for Mother’s Day, shows we are not ready to abandon a bygone era of Christian ideals, in place of a more realistic and inclusive portrayal of family.

Some Mother’s Days, I evade feelings of abnormality, others feel like a personal attack. On tougher years, I am floored by how the deep missing of my mum transmutes into a feverish wish she was still here. And just like that 10-year-old girl, separated from her peers in a school library, I once again feel disconnected from everyone celebrating this day.

There is no absolute solution to the conundrum of Mother’s Day for the motherless, for those who have difficult relationships with their mothers, or those who come from families whose cultures don’t embrace the nuclear structure. However, there is always a solution to exclusion.

This Mother’s Day, if you know people who fit into the above category, try to include them. Inviting them out for a non-Mother’s Day activity helps navigate through Mother’s Day for those without a mother.

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