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Archive for Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother’s Day: without mom

May 9, 2009

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Leslie Burke, left, and her daughter, Amy Burke, Baltimore, are shown at Amy’s college graduation. Leslie died three years ago, and Amy struggles with grief on Mother’s Day.

Leslie Burke, left, and her daughter, Amy Burke, Baltimore, are shown at Amy’s college graduation. Leslie died three years ago, and Amy struggles with grief on Mother’s Day.

Amy Burke lost her mother three years ago, soon after her 25th birthday. The Baltimore resident thinks about her mother every day, and though she’s sad, she says she has her grief in check except for one annoying time of the year — Mother’s Day.

“It’s so in your face,” she says. “The advertisements, the people talking about it.” Three years in, and she still doesn’t know how to deal with it.

Kathy Morgan of Phoenix, lost her mom 20 years ago. “I still get bummed out, angry, sad, lonely, you name it, when Mother’s Day comes around,” she says.

“In the first few years following her death, I used to get very resentful of the whole occasion. How could everyone else be celebrating? Don’t they know I don’t have a mother? How unfair! It didn’t seem to matter that, at the time, I was the mother of two small children myself, or there were other mothers in my life with whom I could spend the day. I wanted my mother.”

Burke and Morgan aren’t alone; for many people grieving over a lost mother, this is one tough holiday to get through. Experts suggest planning ahead of the dreaded day armed with coping strategies to help take on the emotional onslaught. And some people have come up with very creative ways to deal with it.

When Anthony Turk moved to Los Angeles in 1990, soon after losing his mother, a chance encounter gave him a focus to help him power through Mother’s Day.

He got a job assisting the wardrobe stylist on a Wesson Oil commercial staring Florence Henderson, the actress who famously played the mom on “The Brady Bunch.” Turk got friendly with Henderson on the set and confessed how much he missed his mother. At the end of the shoot, Henderson hugged him goodbye and gave him her address.

“She told me that if I was ever sad about my mother at Mother’s Day, that I could still go to the store and buy a Mother’s Day card,” he says. “Florence said that I could mail it to her and it might feel like I was mailing it to my mother.”

Every year since 1991 he has sent Henderson a Mother’s Day card, and he says it was just the therapy that he needed. Now, when other people are buzzing around talking about their plans for the second week in May, he has something he has to do, too.

“Most people my age always wished that they could have a mom like Carol Brady, and in a way, I do,” he says.

It’s probably not a surprise that Amy Borkowsky, a New York comedian, often uses humor to deal with the loss of her mother four years ago to lung cancer. Borkowsky’s mother played a large part in her act: for years she had saved her mother’s hilariously overprotective answering messages (example: she cautioned her daughter not to take the trash out in her red bathrobe “because red is a gang color”) and released them on CD.

“On my first motherless Mother’s Day, I went to brunch with a friend who’d also just lost her mom,” says Borkowsky. “We requested a table for four since ‘our mothers will be joining us,’ and, once seated, we pulled out framed pictures of our mothers and propped them up at the empty places.”

Robin Goodman, director of the Billy Esposito Foundation Bereavement Center in New York, says that one of the more important elements of getting through the day is planning for it in whatever way you deem appropriate.

“There’s the emotional strategies and the practical strategies to get through it,” Goodman says. “For people who have lost their mothers, they are sometimes surprised that it is hard. Rather than be surprised, they should understand that it’s normal that it might be difficult. It’s not a sign of something bad — you’re not crazy, you’re not grieving badly. “

Kate Atwood founded Kate’s Club in Atlanta to help children in the aftermath of losing a loved one. Atwood started the nonprofit in response to her own experiences feeling alone after losing her mother at age 12.

“It’s OK to grieve. Mother’s Day is a hard day for us who don’t have moms, but there are also appropriate and uplifting ways for you to honor your mom after she’s passed,” she says. “I certainly try to do that each year. I’ll do something girly, like treat myself to a spa day; something that I may have done with my mom had she been here. It’s still a hard day for me to get through, but there are great ways to celebrate it and honor the person that you’ve lost.

What can friends or partners of people who are without a mom do to make it easier on this holiday?

“The most important thing to do is acknowledge it,” Atwood says. “It is a great gift on that day when a friend or companion acknowledges that it may be a difficult day for you. Don’t try to walk around it. You can send a card or an e-mail or even go so far as to say, ‘Do you want to do something fun today to honor your mom?’ Really try to find that seed of hope or opportunity to celebrate that person who was important in your life.”

Katherine Morgan, the woman who lost her mother 20 years ago, tries to reach that point today.

“I’ve figured out other ways to celebrate the day, such as honoring and remembering all the other mothers in my life with a card or an e-mail — aunts, friends, mother-in-law, all my ‘surrogate mothers’ — women who are older than I am that I’ve collected over the years,” she says. “On most Mother’s Days, I go to the cemetery and visit with my mom for a while. And, my favorite way to pass the day is with my own-now grown-children if I can.”

Comments

RiverCityConservative 5 years, 7 months ago

I don't understand the reactions of some quoted in this article who said they feel somehow frustrated or angry about reminders of Mothers Day being everywhere. I lost my mother 34 years ago, when I was 17, but she raised me to see the positive side of any situation and she taught me lessons which still serve me today. I am happy for anyone who can enjoy time with their mother on this special day. I was lucky to have a great mom and I feel the same tinge of sadness and nostalgia at this moment that I have felt countless times since her death. I remember when our family used to go to church on Mothers Day, wearing roses or carnations; hers was always white, in memory of her own deceased mother, and ours were red, because our mother was living. Everyone gets the chance to remember their mother and honor her on Mothers Day, whether she is still living or not. I don't understand where any resentment would come from, and I am actually grateful to whoever wrote this article because they have prompted me to think more deeply about the wonderful person whom I was fortunate to be loved by. She dedicated herself to the safety, the development, and the happiness of her children. Happy Mothers Day!

meggiejane 5 years, 7 months ago

I also agree with you rivercity. My mother passed away just over 11 years ago with I was 17. It was a difficult situation all the way around not just on Mother's Day. But I truly feel blessed that she raised my brother and I right to believe that something good comes out of every situation. I am now a mother of four and see the joys in raising my own children. Every year I hug and adore my children for they wouldn't be the children they are if it weren't for my mother. I have so many wonderful mothers in my life. From the great mother in law that I was blessed to have to my friends who in themselves have be come great mothers. Every year I get to reflect on all the things my mother taught me and enjoy passing those memories on to my own children.

Happy Mothers Day

lynnlouise 5 years, 7 months ago

Amy, First of all I am sorry for your loss. I lost my mom last June and I'm dealing with all the firsts. First Christmas then Mother's Day next her Birthday and then the anniversary of her death. The intensity is getting better, but i defiantly have these moments that come out of know where. Like a burst of emotion that gives me no warning. I have cried today,for today is a reminder that I can't call or see my mom. I love her and miss her. So for me, for my first Mother's day I took it as Being appreciated and appreciating all my mom did for me. Everyone has there own way of dealing with death. Time can be a major difference. I don't know you but I'm thinking of you.

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