Love, Grief, and Service – Mother’s Day 2017

Oh Mother’s Day. Here we go again. Over the past couple of years it has become undeniable that my relationship with you is not as sweet and simple as one would imagine. Our current status is, “it’s complicated.”

For years, as I mothered my young children, I played along with the Mother’s Day thing. They were young, so precious, and I was exhausted. It seemed easier to follow along. When I admitted that I didn’t enjoy the coordination of Mother’s Day or the tug of war between mothering and daughtering, people suggested I take the day to be alone, get a massage, go to a yoga class. That sounded like a good idea. I tried it. It didn’t fit for me either. So I continued to experience the weird feeling of not liking Mother’s Day.

What is YOUR relationship like with Mother’s Day? What feels good for you?

For awhile, it was like I was trying to make my experience of Mothering and Daughtering be okay and all good. Stuff it in a box, wrap it up pretty and put a bow on it. Be quiet, be grateful and go out to brunch with a smile.

I don’t do pretty boxes and there are no bows in my house. I love deeply, with big fat tears, and all the feelings that come with this crazy life. All of this to say, I’m not keen on a Mother’s Day brunch. And luckily, my Mom is on board and gives me a free pass, with no guilt, to freely  explore and to challenge my own beliefs and traditions.

I start with the struggles of being a Mother and a Daughter. We all have them. My struggles haven’t been earth shattering or grief stricken, like some of my friends, and many women around the world. My Mother and my children are alive, well, and present in my daily life. For that, I’m grateful and I will not take it for granted. But that doesn’t make it struggle free.

And this past year has been full of struggle. Learning to accept grief as I lose pieces of my Mother to Alzheimer’s isn’t easy. And my heart breaks open as I lose pieces of my children to Adolescence. But I am able to see the beauty in these painful experiences because I’m present and witnessing it every single day. That’s a privilege.

I might not have the same relationship with grief that many women have. Yet, as a human being, I see the profound impact grief has on Mothers, Sons and Daughters. Can Grief and Struggle please have a seat at the table? They deserve one in so many ways.

I sense the immense grief of Mothers who have lost a child, and those who have suffered silently after miscarriages. The women who struggle with infertility. Mothers and children who are separated by unforgiving borders. Foster Moms that grieve deeply. Children that have been abandoned, neglected, abused by their Mothers. Mothers who are incarcerated and long, every moment of every day, to be with their children. The list goes on.

That pain…that pain that I can’t even begin to imagine, hits hard. It knocks away any guilt and fills me with empathy and a sense of sisterhood with the Mothers that experience such heartache. The need for Women supporting Women feels like the most powerful and important action ever. We must be here, together, for each other.

When I acknowledge my ability to potentially enjoy the sweet simplicity of Mother’s Day, I am keenly aware of my privilege and, let’s keep it real, guilt creeps in. Guilt pounces on us in the moments we realize that not everyone gets to have what we have. And why not? It’s not fair. But to let guilt stick around creates disconnect. I long for true connection, so I step into the hard work of transforming guilt into something that will serve better.

This is part of my journey. The unraveling of how my world is, in connection with others. As a justice seeker, I ask why and I search for truth and understanding.

Mother’s Day this year has become a day, an opportunity, for me to reach out to other Mothers, to women who are suffering in some way. It feels like the most selfish act…to seek inner peace through service, yet I see how clearly it creates the world that I want to live in.

Taking three children to see their Mother, who is incarcerated, is the service I am able to provide on Mother’s Day this year. It is a little something I can do to ease the pain in an unforgiving system. The story is heart breaking. It’s not mine to tell. I wish there was a way that all Children could be with their Moms on Mother’s Day if they wanted to. I wish the system wasn’t set up with so many barriers for Women of Color, for undocumented Mothers, for women suffering in a system that is trying to hold them back.

Finding a way to be of service doesn’t make me like Mother’s Day any more than I did. In fact, the more I learn, the more I realize just how many people are suffering on Mother’s Day, and every day, and my desire for justice increases.

I hope for a world where women can give themselves permission to experience Mother’s Day in whatever way works for you in an effort to feel whole, to heal, and to experience our emotions without shame.

Perhaps it is in gratitude, relief, amazement, reflection, joy, laughter.
Or maybe it is in grief, exhaustion, overwhelm, heartbreak, resentment.
Likely there is a mix and hopefully we remember that no matter what, it all matters.

When we support each other and love one another fully, our strength is unstoppable. 

*****     *****     *****

If you are called to be of service, to learn and grow and listen more deeply…there is a need for time, your heart, your donation, your compassion.

In the Madison, WI area, if you have time:
Family Connections provides opportunities to maintain and strengthen relationships within families affected by incarceration. This program keeps critical parent-child connections strong by organizing regular monthly visits between imprisoned mothers and their children. Family Connections goes to Taycheedah Correctional Institution the second Saturday of each month. For more information, contact SHAWNA@EMUM.ORG.
(There is a waiting list of children…you are needed!)

Reading Connections offers parents whose children reside too far away for regular visits, an opportunity to bond with their child and encourage their reading. Each month, volunteers go to Taycheedah Correctional Institution and Waupan Correctional Institution to collaborate with parents on this initiative. Parents are video recorded reading books to their children and the book, the recording, and a letter are mailed to the children and families. For more information, contact SHAWNA@EMUM.ORG.

If you can donate money, please consider: Madison Area Urban Ministry.

Infamous Mothers…buy a book for you and one for someone you admire.

Or donate/participate in the National Mama’s Bail Out Day. This will give incarcerated mothers an opportunity to spend Mother’s Day with their families and build community through gatherings that highlight the impact of inhumane and destructive bail practices on our communities!


3 thoughts on “Love, Grief, and Service – Mother’s Day 2017”

  1. Susie Jankovich says:

    Grateful that you have given me this to think about, Sara! xoxox

  2. Jenn Sutkowski says:

    I love you so much. This is beautiful. That’s not even enough of the right word. Thank you for sharing this and for sharing your heart and your time and making our world better. It’s not selfish at all, even if it makes you feel good. Mother Theresa had a smile on a lot of the time.

    Also this: “The need for Women supporting Women feels like the most powerful and important action ever. We must be here, together, for each other.”

    Yes yes yes! I was thinking that yesterday and I kept seeing it happening with so many of the awesome women I know. I feel like shit is shifting, and what you’re writing is helping it shift. Dare I say what we’re writing. We women who care and love with big fat tears and not so many bows (in my house it’s more out of laziness than a general dismissal of bows, I think, I don’t know. Fuck bows. 😉 )


  3. Heather Kapp says:

    Sara, as always, thank you. Thank you for sharing your authentic self, your full self, for being vulnerable so openly. And you are an inspiration. I contacted Shawna about the Family Connections program. The way you included actions we can take that make a difference is huge. Right now, everything feels so overwhelming and urgent which can lead to a fight, flee or freeze response. Hugs!

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