When Mother’s Day Isn’t Merry

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Mother’s Day isn’t just another Hallmark holiday 

Mother’s Day for most brings about memories of making cards and other treats for your mother. Then as adults, we have memories of mad dashes online to find some sort of gift or flowers to send. Now, we are the mothers receiving hugs, morning cuddles, and handmade gifts to commemorate the occasion. When late April rolls around, our inboxes and television sets become inundated with ads for brunches, presents, and all things Mother’s Day related. What we often do not discuss between the cards, the ads, the flowers, and the homemade crafts is that Mother’s Day is not a joyful celebration for everyone.

The untold stories

We are often missing those whose stories sometimes go untold. There are those who have strained relationships with their mothers or have been abandoned by them. There are the mothers who are still reeling from one or multiple miscarriages, possibly a stillbirth. Many are coping with the loss of their mother whether it was recent or a long time ago. Some find themselves longing to be mothers, but are not able to be for a variety of reasons. Mothers might be mourning the loss of a child they were never prepared to lose. The pandemic has brought grieving to the forefront in a way that most of us have never seen or experienced.

Not cancelling Mother’s Day but considering others 

Over this past month for the first time, I have seen advertising for the ability to opt-out of Mother’s Day ads. Maybe this has shown up before, but this is the first time I’ve ever noticed it in a big way. What a considerate way to acknowledge those whose who may have complicated feelings on this day–or worse, devastation. I do not consider this “cancel culture.” Instead, it is a new consideration for those amongst us who are hurting. Maybe seeing all the Mother’s Day ads is not best for everyone.

What can I do?

The most important thing that can be done for those who are hurting is to acknowledge their pain. Send a funny or kind memory, picture, or something to let a friend know you are thinking of their lost mother or child. Reach out to someone you know who might be struggling this weekend. A quick text, phone call, FaceTime, or email can go a long way. I promise you are not reminding them of their sadness. They are already sitting with it. Instead, you are reminding them that they are not alone. Both my other mother and I are sitting with two very different kind of losses this Mother’s Day. I know some gentle thoughts from those we love and care about would go a long way. I urge you to share some light this Mother’s Day to those whose may not be shining as brightly this year and may need some help through their darkness.

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Tamara Gayle Blackwood, MD, MEd is a board-certified pediatric physician. Prior to medical school her passion for education led her to complete the Teach for America program, serving as a high school biology teacher in the Bronx. She completed her Master’s in Education at Pace University in New York City, NY. Following her time in the Bronx, she completed her MD at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, FL. Dr. Gayle Blackwood stayed in Miami for her residency training completing her training at Jackson Memorial Hospital. After her residency Dr. Gayle Blackwood went on to pursue a Hospital Medicine Fellowship at Children’s National in Washington, DC. During her fellowship training she was awarded a grant as a RAPID Scholar to research food insecurity and asthma in disadvantaged Black children. Dr. Gayle Blackwood is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health at George Washington University. She is on faculty at Children’s National Hospital as an attending in the Hospital Medicine Division and an Assistant Professor through George Washington University. Dr. Gayle Blackwood lives with her husband in Northeast DC and enjoys cooking, traveling, and volunteering in her community. She also has virtual classes for expecting parents to teach them everything they need to know to feel ready for their newborn. You can follow her on instagram @realtalkwithdrtam.