It's Personal: A Letter for Mother's Day For Those Without A Mom

Published May 06, 2020 by Sheila Anne Murray

Dear friend,

I am writing to recognize & acknowledge all that you might be feeling right now. May is upon us, which means that the Mother’s Day advertisements, emails, and social posts have begun. Beautiful as they may be, I know that these can be triggering. I’m feeling triggered.

I am writing to those whose moms have passed, those whose moms are no longer around, those who are moms and may be feeling their own grief around the holiday, and those that simply don’t have the sunshiney relationship that they see others celebrating on social media.

I see you.

Two years ago at this time, I was traveling to Quebec for another “Mother’s Day Weekend” event. My mom came up with this tradition the year prior because she could imagine nothing more amazing than quality time with her family and an experience somewhere new. My mom didn’t travel when she was young, so as an adult she wanted to make up for lost time. She often spoke about her dream trip - a safari in South Africa, which would allow her to take her nature photography to a new level. That trip never happened, though. Neither did the one she had in mind for the two of us - where we would drive a convertible down the coast of California. I smile when I think of what it might have been like for the two of us: driving by the ocean; wind in our hair; probably getting a nasty sunburn; laughing our heads off.

As for the Mother’s Day Weekend trips, we went to Nashville in 2017, and then Quebec in 2018. I sometimes wonder where she had planned to go next. I never got to ask. Instead, 2019 marked my first mother-less Mother’s Day. We didn’t go on a family trip - instead my partner and I jetted off to Europe the following day. At the time, I loved that I was too busy packing everything up to notice what was happening in the digital world. Once I was on the road though, I found myself with a boatload of emotions to sort though. During that trip, I learned a lot about myself, about the courage it takes to be vulnerable, and the power of my mom’s light, which accompanied me on my journey. For the 8 months following her passing, I had put on a happy face most of the time and hadn’t taken much solitary time to feel and reflect. While it can feel good to infuse joy and to live in the positive, it’s not always enough on its own. Personally, I needed time to surrender some of my control and to grieve authentically. Similarly, when Mother’s Day arises, you may feel compelled to be strong and may feel guilt if emotions of bitterness or saddness arise. You don’t need to be anything but you. I encourage you to question guilt and let it go.

What you feel is valid & you can express your emotions in the way that feels best for you.

I read something once about how grief & sadness are actually just “residual love.” That, if you feel sad about a person, it’s you feeling love and simply missing it. It’s a nice way to spin it, right? The idea resonated with me, and my eternal optimism (inherited from my mom) found comfort in it. It’s an interesting invitation to dissolve grief and choose love. But - let’s be honest - it’s not a perfect idea. If you don’t have the sparkly relationship with your mom that you see from others, or you don’t have the most wonderful memories to reflect on, “residual love” may not be the right fit. When I feel angry for lost time, missed conversations, or opportunities I wish I had taken, I have a hard time calling it love too. That’s anger. That’s bitterness. That’s just living & breathing emotion.

Take care of you.

I’m not going to tell you to journal, to make yourself a face mask, or to bake yourself a pie (though those are all fabulous ideas), and I’m not even going to tell you to stay away from social media. Instead, I invite you to tune in to what your heart is asking for you to do. If you’re having a stellar week — ride that wave! If you need to sleep 10 hours/night — honor that! Your emotions don’t need to make sense, and the more that youlistento yourself, the more at peace you may feel with that.

You are not alone.

In the past year, I’ve had friends that have lost a loved one, and I know recent events have also created a void for countless others. Losing someone (in all senses of the word) can feel lonely and isolating. Know that you are not alone if you are willing to open the door. Since losing my mom, I’ve been embraced by a community of people that have also lost parents. I have new friends and our shared experience connects in a unique and really real way. We lift one another up. We “get it.” We grieve differently and embrace the differences. Sometimes we have long, interesting conversations about our grief, with a simple air of curiosity. I’ve learned so much from these amazing humans.

This week, leading up to Mother’s Day/Mother-less Day, I am thinking of you. Know that I see you, know that what you feel is valid & you can express your emotions in the way that feels best for you, I invite you to take care of you, and you are not alone.

My heart embraces you.



family in quebec

Mother’s Day in Quebec, 2018


Sheila Anne