May 2, 2018
As Mother’s Day approaches each year, the country’s attention collectively turns toward celebrating mothers who are living. Yet for many of us, thoughts also naturally turn to mothers who are no longer here. For motherless daughters (and sons, too), it’s very natural to experience a resurgence of grief, even many years after a loss, as we remember the mom we celebrated with in the past and wish were here on this day. Even as some of us spend Mother’s Day with children of our own, the holiday can bring up memories and — for those with warm memories of the past — bring up longing for our own mothers, too.
Our mothers never stop occupying that mother-shaped place in our hearts, even after they’ve died. It’s fitting then, isn’t it, that Mother’s Day was founded by a motherless daughter? Philadelphia resident Anna Jarvis took on this initiative after the death of her own mother, Julia Howe, who had helped start the process. Due in large part to Jarvis’s passionate campaigning, President Woodrow Wilson signed the resolution that recognized the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914, nine years after Anna’s mother had died.
Anna Jarvis must have understood how emotionally important it is to honor all mothers, including those who have died, on Mother’s Day. That’s why a group of women in New York City held the first Motherless Daughters luncheon on Mother’s Day weekend in 1996. The tradition has since expanded to include breakfasts, luncheons, and teas in dozens of cities around the world every spring.
On April 21 this year I had the privilege of speaking before a group of nearly 200 women at the annual VITAS Healthcare “Missing Our Mothers, Daughters Remember” breakfast in Philadelphia. While many tears were shed, it was also a morning of support, laughter, and celebrations of life. Two hundred women sat together at the round tables, but 400 women were present that morning. We honored them all.
Some of this year’s events (like Philadelphia’s) have already taken place, but many more are coming up on Saturday, May 12. Some, including in Detroit; Los Angeles; and Orange County, CA, have been taking place for 15 years or more. First-time luncheons will be held in Columbus, Ohio; St. Louis; and Canberra, Australia. This year, I’ll be speaking at a Motherless Daughters Tea in downtown San Francisco on May 12. I hope to meet some of you there!
Please check here to look for an event near you. (You’ll need to scroll down to see all the listings.) If there isn’t a luncheon near you in 2018 please check back in 2019, as new cities enter the network every year.
And — if you don’t see an event near you, can’t make your local event this year, or would like some extra support on Mother’s Day weekend, grief therapist and author Claire Bidwell Smith and I will be hosting a free, 30-minute conference call at 9 a.m. PST/noon EST on Saturday, May 12. To receive dial-in information, please click here. Everyone is welcome to join. (And all participants will receive a one-time $50 discount on a 2018 Motherless Daughters Retreat!)
Finally, on May 12 I’ll be leading a Circle of Remembrance, a longstanding Motherless Daughters tradition, on my Facebook Author’s page. This virtual circle will be open to everyone. Please feel free join us there to honor our mothers and our enduring connection together, and to invite your sisters and friends to participate, too.
Grieving is such a tender experience, and often feels so solitary. But it need not be something to go through alone. By joining with others to express and sift through the many emotions associated with Mother’s Day, we can discover and continue to build support through community. This is my ever-present hope for you all.
Sending you all best wishes for a peaceful Mother’s Day weekend. ♥