I’m here to give you my blessing…yes, you CAN opt out of Mother’s Day! It is your day after all…so technically by the rules of our society (as enforced by Hallmark) you’re allowed to do whatever you want.
Well…unless “whatever you want” triggers the heck out of your children with relational trauma. And there’s the rub. I truly believe there is NOT another day in the entire calendar year (not Christmas, their birthdays, not even their abandonment anniversary date) that can send them into orbit as high and far as the mention of Mother’s Day.
We’re heading into our 21st Mother’s Day as a family impacted by developmental trauma, and the encouragement I’ll impart is that it has gotten MUCH easier. But it took years of trying all the wrong things and having all the big feelings –by everyone in the family– around this day.
In the beginning, I didn’t “get it” – I couldn’t fathom the depths of my daughter’s despair, confusion, overwhelming sadness, and seething anger about a day celebrating what I enjoy being so much, a Mom. I’m not one for huge accolades, but I have never turned down eating lunch out after church –who wants to cook?– or handmade cards. And yet, it was quickly apparent that those things were a trigger for her.
Throughout the years we’ve done the “low key” celebrations at home, the non-existent celebrations, and the “let’s commemorate your birth mom” celebrations. Each has partially worked. Ignoring the day was our fallback position most years, although if you send a child to school, own a television set, or go to church, it is impossible to avoid Mother’s Day completely. While I eventually stopped feeling like I’d lost out on something –because hubby did something special with me another time–, our other children did always feel like something was missing from what “normal” families do.
Besides, sadly, totally ignoring it didn’t always work. Our most recent disastrous and flabbergasting Mother’s Day debacle was about 7 years ago when we were using that day to move one of our daughters into her new college apartment, thereby avoiding the crowd, who were all out celebrating the big day. We didn’t go to church, so our traumatized daughter’s negative mood was not triggered by any mention of the holiday there, yet it was heightened because of the focus on her sister. About halfway through the move, though, another tenant showed up with her mother and balloons. It was all over. My traumatized daughter was reminded of what the day really was. After what felt like hours of horrendous meltdown, my husband was able to coax her into the car and take her home. My mortified college daughter, who now had to “live with all my new neighbors seeing my sister in action” and I were left shell-shocked. We eventually found our way to a quiet Mexican restaurant for an impromptu celebration that we did indeed SURVIVE yet another Mother’s Day.
Last year, our daughter who has developmental trauma was the only one at home, and the day was commemorated much like it is throughout the United States – church, then lunch out, and even a card picked by my daughter. She struggled with some of the emotions of her loss that day but could tell me what was on her mind. Together, we walked through it.
So, what are you supposed to do? Well, what is entirely up to you. This is not a “how to” on fixing your Mother’s Day, but rather permission to do what works for YOUR FAMILY. First, know that while things may get better, the feelings will still and always be there. Secondly, you are not alone – we’re with you! Should there be a day to commemorate all that you, the trauma mama, have done and continue to do? Heck yeah…but Mother’s Day, unfortunately, is rarely that day. Remember, though – in the end, it’s just one day. Yes, the only way out is through the middle. The good news is, YOU get to decide how your family will get to the other side.