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Sundays with Sonja: A Note This Mother's Day

I woke up this morning and felt thankful for the rain. I didn’t have it in me to peer out the window and see the sun shining and the songbirds chirping their early-morning melodies. It’s unseasonably cold this Mother’ Day, and something about that makes it easier to endure the very first one without my own. I woke up desperate to end this day as quickly as it started…and yet somehow, nearly eight months after unexpectedly losing my mother, I feel now that time passes as often as it stands still.

I didn’t want to honor her today. I didn’t want to acknowledge the gaping hole that exists in my heart after losing my best friend and soul mate. I got out of bed, quickly showered, and left the house. I arrived at a crowded coffee shop and sat in a corner, unable to watch the mothers and daughters happily ordering iced lattes while I dissociated from the impending gravity of this day. I felt myself enter a state of compartmentalization that I used to expertly navigate during difficult times, organizing lists and attending to mindless tasks that would permit me to hyper-fixate on my laptop instead of the holiday.

After answering a pile of emails and starting a continuing education module about managing difficult airways in the operating room, I lifted my eyes momentarily to take a mental break. I turned to see a little blonde girl prancing into the line of customers, her flouncy pink dress and floral leggings brightening up the room on this dark and dreary morning. I couldn’t help but smile as tears filled my eyes…thinking back on how much she looked like me when I was her age. I’m not sure whether it was my own inner monologue or the voice of my mother – after all, these days, I believe they are one and the same – but I felt the internal nudge that comes when inspiration strikes without apparent rhyme or reason.

Here I sit, with tears streaming down my face…in full acknowledgement of the beautiful reality that I can somehow remain prolific through the pain, and that I have my mother to thank for it. I never wanted to be the person that brought down the energy in the room, nor do I want to minimize the happiness of others due to my own conflicted state. Yet hiding behind a watered-down reality of my existence the way I used to do would only cause me to struggle down the road. Every day, I am doing my best to acknowledge my own inner truth while honoring those around me. And through that truth, I must remind myself – and all of you – that sitting with your emotions is the only way to process them. And while early on in my life I strived to be perfect…these days, I strive to be honest.

The honest truth is, from now on, every holiday will feel bittersweet. Every milestone will be punctuated by a sense of longing. Every accomplishment will feel equally as momentous as it does so damn small. I am learning every day to live with the complex reality that being a living breathing thinking feeling human requires connection. Without connection, we are nothing. Without connection, we fail to learn, grow, or experience the rich tapestry of this technicolor life. Some days, it can feel easier to bury the vast array of emotions into the dark and dusky cellar of your mind. Stowing your truth deep beneath the surface may numb you, but it will certainly never heal you. After decades of grappling with my own emotional turmoil, I can tell you conclusively: it is far more human to feel heartache, than it is to feel nothing at all.

And so as difficult as it is for me to write this, it is also the easiest thing in the world. When I honor my truth – even when it’s far from the bright and shiny person that I know is my default setting – it permits me to experience an authentic life, and share those layers of myself with others. This Mother’s Day, I hope that every mother is feels the abundance of love she deserves. I hope that every child comes to terms with their relationship – no matter how complicated – and honors those feelings. I hope that those who long to become mothers realize just how many beautiful ways you consistently give to this world: there is a good chance you’re already a warm, generous, empathetic mother to those in your life. I won’t offer empty promises, but I will offer my eternal optimism in a world that can feel too real. I hope that those who are estranged from their mothers process the pain, and I hope that you channel your own experience to do better than was done to you. I hope that those who are fur mamas, bonus mamas, or amazing aunts and grandmothers recognize their value, since this tribe takes a village and you make the community thrive.

And I hope that those who have lost their mothers – the fellow members of a club I was never prepared to become a part of – acknowledge the beauty of a flickering light, a floating butterfly, or a fragrant flower today. If you’re like me, and you are still learning how to sit with your grief when it strikes in the most unexpected ways…I hope that you are kind to yourself. I hope that you’re as gentle with your own heart as you are with others. And I hope that you realize that the inexplicable pain that cuts like a knife on this day is only possible through a love that bleeds through time’s eternal wounds.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone celebrating – and to those struggling – on this chilly day in May. I hope that you know how special you are, no matter your role; no matter the circumstance; no matter how bittersweet this holiday may feel. To be a mother means to be a lifeforce: the pure embodiment of creation. May you honor whatever you have created on this day, and give it space to flourish. May you take a moment to sit with however you’re feeling, and breathe life into your own sense of humanity.

I love you mama, and I miss you every day.

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