I Still Struggle With Mother's Day Since Losing My Mom -- Even After Having Kids

Emily Lockamy

mom and daughter
Emily Lockamy

This article is part of a series dedicated to providing support and visibility to motherhood in every one of its forms. To read more stories on what motherhood looks like for all types of women, visit This Is Motherhood.

Mother’s Day changed immensely for me five years ago with the birth of my first son. What had been a day full of sadness and yearning became a day to celebrate. 

Seven years prior, I lost my beloved mom to pancreatic cancer. Each Mother’s Day that followed felt hard and heavy, the Hallmark holiday highlighting her absence. Often I tried to close my eyes and pretend it was just another day.
  • But my first Mother’s Day as a mother myself, I wanted to open my eyes. 

    Time, of course, had played a part in softening my grief. But becoming a mother to my precious boy also gave the day an entirely new meaning. In my arms, I held a sense of purpose and bliss that changed my whole perspective. Instead of a pit in my stomach, I felt joy I could hardly contain. In place of bitterness and envy, I felt bursting pride and boundless gratitude. Along with a slight worry … 

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  • What if in my newfound happiness, I was leaving my mom behind? 

    Similar to the panic I’d felt about the passage of time -- every new year, a pang of dread -- will I forget her voice? Her face? Her laugh? Her essence? Our memories? If grief is what’s left after someone is gone, how else can we stay connected? 

    But grief changes over time, and as my heart opened and swelled in the sweet, sleep-deprived days of new motherhood, so too did my grief.

  • As I embraced a day that I had once wished away, even more love and longing for my mom washed over me. 

    That first Mother’s Day that I was called “Mom” (or “Mama” back then) I knew that a new stage of knowing my mom was unfolding -- and that this is how it would be. Our bond would endure, and so would her presence, in quiet, beautiful, and unexpected ways. No, it’s not how it was ever supposed to be … I have so many questions for her that will go unanswered.

  • But I don’t have to wonder what she would think of my two blond-haired crazy boys.

    When I miss her the most, I try to imagine her watching them like a fly on the wall (like I do when I pick them up from school). I see her face seeing my toddler waddling around the backyard trying to keep up with his brother, my other son hitting a home run over the fence, doing a victory dance. I hear my mom’s voice in mine when I shout, “Good job, honey!” 

    Mother’s Day has become an occasion that I look forward to and cherish: the homemade cards, the flowers, the excuse to dress up and take a bunch of family photos, the chance to show my appreciation for the loving mother figures in my life, as well as the two boys who made me a mom.

  • And still, I miss my mom. 

    I don’t always know quite how to honor her beautiful life and legacy. But Mother’s Day seems to help me make the space to do my best.

    Just a few days ago in the car, my son and I talked about family. 

    “Liz is your other grandmother,” I reminded him. 

    “Well, she was,” he replied.

  • More than a decade after losing her, and even after working as a grief therapist, there’s still something jarring to me about that switch, from present to past tense. 

    How overnight, or in a flash, a person who means the world to you can go from being to been -- is to was, even though they are every bit as real, important, and existent to you now as they were then. She was my mom. She is my mom.

    “Yes,” I said, “you’re right, but I’ll always love her and she would really love you, and maybe you can feel that love sometimes, right?”

    He nodded.

    It's the one thing I know will never fade -- her love.

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