Mother’s Day has been a non-event for me for the past 25 years. Not exactly a neutral day, it’s a day I barely acknowledge, and usually criticize as the Hallmark holiday it is (I mean really, we should be nice to mothers every day, right?).
This morning I read the Toronto Star’s heteronormative comics page about dads and kids giving moms one day off. I moved on to the Life section and finally read something about Mother’s Day that made sense to me. By the second paragraph, I was split in two, my adult body sitting at my sunny breakfast table eating scrambled eggs with the newspaper, while my child’s mind was confused, in shock, just waking up to hear about my mother’s death the night before. I couldn’t read past that second paragraph, Mother’s Day suddenly becoming real to me again, after 25 years.
The story was written by Thulasi Srikanthan, and is about women whose mothers died when they were small children, the impact this loss has on them, and the way this holiday is a “sad reminder” for “women who are always grieving”. I am a therapist and someone who has done years of therapy about my mother’s death, but there was something in Srikanthan’s writing and reporting that thoroughly rocked me. This is what good writing does.
I’ve often reflected on what impact mother-loss has had on my writing. Some of my earliest poems trace the raucous journey of coping without a mother and even today, strands of grief seem to enter my prose. Many of my characters are dealing with losses: of loved ones, of home, of identity. Perhaps it is my own experiences with grief that make my characters’ tragedies believable, and perhaps their pain helps me to mourn my own; life and fiction interweaving in the ongoing process of mourning that Srikanthan describes.