Mother’s Day can be bittersweet

There’s someone in your life who has probably lost motherhood—it might be you.

Mother’s Day is always bittersweet for me. It may be for you, too.

At first look, my day should be pure joy. I’m lucky to have a 5-year-old daughter to make this day wonderful. I get to spend it with my mother. My 20-year-old stepson lives with us as well, another joy ever since he was a baby. My husband will dote me on this special day, too.

But this doesn’t replace the motherhood I lost.

There’s a lot of women like me. Mothers who have lost a child because of death, miscarriage, adoption…And women longing to be mothers but thwarted because of infertility.

For me, it was death of a child to SIDS and infertility.

With almost 20 percent of pregnancies ending in miscarriage, there’s someone you know who might have mourned the loss of motherhood. It might even be you. With almost 15 percent of women struggling with infertility, you probably know one of them. You might be one of them.

Then you add in estrangement, loss of an older child, loss through abortion, loss of custody…and more losses due to choice or circumstance. There’s most certainly a woman in your life who has lost motherhood. That might also include you.

Thus, many more women than we might realize also may find Mother’s Day bittersweet. Some might even find it heartbreaking.

That might include you.

So, how do women like me handle Mother’s Day and the complex feelings it might inspire? For me, it was attempting to separate out the myths of motherhood from the reality in order to grieve, like I write about in this new article.

For me, I had to stop having a romanticized view of motherhood. This was a big shift in my thinking. This shift helped me grieve.

I actually became aware of a more realistic notion of motherhood through editing and publishing Joy, Interrupted: An Anthology on Motherhood and Loss. Many of the contributors wrote about the death of their child and infertility. But many others wrote about other forms of loss, whether through adoption, estrangement, individuation, and more. My view of loss was myopic before I read these pieces. 

With my children, I have learned that mothering is intrinsically a grieving process, as well. That’s because as your child grows, you mourn. You mourn the good memories that are long gone. You mourn what never can be again. Luckily, it’s a grief balanced by embracing the future. The gift of motherhood is complex.

The fact is, there’s likely a woman grieving this Mother’s Day that you know in some way—maybe even it’s yourself. So, you might wonder what to say. Your inclination might be to say nothing. But here is my advice:

Don’t avoid saying “Happy Mother’s Day.” We don’t want to forget about motherhood, no matter what pain we might feel. Help us honor the experience. Help us manage the longing. Help us enjoy the day while honoring our pain.

Happy Mother’s Day,


(If you are seeking some solace or know some one who is, my book, Joy, Interrupted is on sale for 99 cents right now on Kindle. I also have paperback copies for sale for $13 (more than half off). Just email me a request at

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