Surviving Mothers Day One Breath At A Time

By
MaryBeth Cichocki

Mother's Day. Those two words once brought happy memories of cards and flowers, crabs and beer. My family gathered together to celebrate motherhood. Three generations laughing and loving. Sharing the memories of childhood, then teen years that became adult years, changing our families women into mothers. Every year we gathered together at my house. A beautiful family tradition. Grandmothers, aunts, mothers in law, sisters, sons and daughters. To celebrate family and love. This year Mother's Day grabs my heart and shatters it like glass.  Broken in too many pieces to ever be repaired. Our family forever changed by addiction. A beautiful family tradition now missing a very large presence.  

My youngest son, gone forever. His demons more powerful than a mother's love. A family broken. A mother broken. Thinking of this once special day brings me to my knees. A day I once looked forward to, now a day that will forever be a reminder of the profound loss. The gut punches become relentless taking my breath away in sobs that I can no longer control. It is said losing a child demolishes the mother. I can tell you it absolutely does.  

How does a grieving mother survive a holiday in her honor. There are no Hallmark cards dealing with moms like me. There are no "how to" books explaining what to expect on days that are meant to bring joy but now will bring incredible pain. There is nothing happy about Mother's Day for this mother. Yet, I recognize I still have my mother, sister, daughter in law, and most importantly my oldest son.  My mind knows I still have much to be thankful for, but my heart is missing a very special piece. How do I explain that all I want to do is close my eyes and wish I would disappear. How do I make everyone understand that my heart has shut down to protect my sanity and Mother's Day is now a day I want to forget.  

Now, along with grief, I have guilt. Mother's Day has always been my holiday to do for everyone. I cook the food and provide the drink. Buying beautiful flowers for all to enjoy. I transform my gardens into the peaceful place for all the mothers to relax and appreciate Mother Nature, while enjoying my adult son's precious time together. Watching my two boys, now men, laughing and sharing their lives, filled my heart with joy. Now I see the pain etched on my oldest son's face and my heart feels the depth of his loss. His grief washes over me. His bravery astounds me as I witness his silent tears.  How does a grieving mother help her grieving son?  

Mother's Day, once a holiday I loved has become a day that will always remain a painful reminder of our family's loss. Most of my friends are mothers with living children. Now rather than sharing their joy of our day, I'm jealous that their children are here and one of mine is not. Guilt again. How can I feel this way?  What kind of mother is jealous that another mother's child is alive?  Grief has changed this mother. I'm no longer the woman I once was. The loss of my youngest son has made me question the circumstances of life. Many days I wake and the tears fall as reality creeps into my sleeping brain. He is gone, my mind says, and the pain of my new life begins again. I have enough trouble trying to navigate through a normal day, how will I ever make it through Mother's Day? 

My mind is filled with memories of happiness and joy. My two little men. Handmade cards and hand picked flowers would be thrust into my arms by these precious children who stole my heart the moment they were placed in my arms.  Motherhood with all the ups and downs still remains an incredible gift from God. Mother's Day held new meaning once I became a mother. There is no greater love than that beautiful bond shared between a mother and her child. There is also no greater pain when that bond is severed by an untimely, unexpected death. 

Recently, a very wise mother, a mom like myself gave me some incredible advice. She told me to imagine you are on a plane. The oxygen masks drop down. Save yourself first, she said. Place the mask on your face and breathe. Keep breathing and take care of yourself before you take care of others. This Mother's Day, I will say his name. I will let my tears come. I will feel his absence and not hide my pain. I will tell his brother how much his love means to me and how amazing of a man he has become. I will not pretend I am fine. This Mother's Day I will be on that plane and I will take care of myself one breath at a time. 💔