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The first Mother’s Day without her

The first Mother’s Day without her

I’ve tried hard to keep grief out of my columns lately. There’s only so much melancholy and broken-heartedness readers can take when reading the weekly paper over a cup of coffee. But with this Sunday being Mother’s Day, I couldn’t help but write a little about my own mom today.

Since last August when she passed, I’ve been dreading the first Mother’s Day without her. All the holidays have been grueling. My first birthday without the person that brought me into the world felt lonely. The first Halloween without her holding one of the boys’ hands during trick-or-treating was sad. The first Thanksgiving without her in the kitchen making my great-grandmother’s dressing felt empty. The first Christmas without her central presence was so overwhelmingly hard, I wanted it to end as quickly as possible. 

Then the boys’ birthdays came in January and the Disney trip she helped plan in February and Easter in April and on and on it goes. With each holiday, I miss her warm personality and the integral part she’s always played. 

Everyone said the first year would be the worst and while it may be the worst, I’ve decided forevermore will be different. There’s this ongoing absence in my world that I’m sure will ease over time but will always exist. 

To be honest, I’ve barely survived these first eight months without her. I’ve kept a brave face, but the grief has been extraordinary and has manifested in ways I didn’t expect or plan for. 

I’ve clung for dear life to my faith in God and comfort in family, friends and community. And while these have been powerful allies during a dark time, it’s still been very painful. 

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With that being said, this Sunday is the pinnacle of all holidays when it comes to moms. The one day of the year where our mothers are honored and pampered. Until you no longer have your mom here on earth, you don’t realize just how many things say Mother’s Day during the month of May. It’s like everywhere I look online or in person, I see “Mother’s Day” in giant, flashing letters. Admittedly, that’s been a bit rough to take. 

Even though I’ve been a mom for over eight years, I’ve always felt like Mother’s Day was for my mom. And with my parents living nearby in Weaverville, I’ve spent every Mother’s Day with her since moving back after graduate school. Since having my own children, my Mother’s Day has involved snuggling with two little boys in the morning, gifts that include handmade crafts from their schools (best gifts ever), a church service honoring moms, then lunch and afternoon fun with my mom.

I’m not sure I can manage church this year. It may just be too emotional. As a self-preservation method, I’ve designed my day to induce as little heartache as possible. I plan to continue the snuggles and acceptance of handmade gifts from the sweetest little boys in the world, and after that, our day involves lunch with another family, strawberry picking, grilling out at the house, and planting tomatoes and cucumbers. These activities all sound like fun and relaxing ways to get through the day. 

Interestingly, while there are many triggers to my grief, what doesn’t make me sad is seeing my friends with their moms. I think it worries them, but seeing them together warms my heart tremendously. It’s like watching happiness with my own eyes. I’m witnessing them make memories they will cherish forever and that’s a really cool thing to watch. 

So, as I go forward in my new normal, my focus on Mother’s Day now shifts from being with my mom to honoring her. My own motherhood is no longer an afterthought and now becomes the main focus. And even though I’m terrible at being the center of attention, I will manage because nothing makes me prouder than being mom to my boys, Brooks and Case. 

I must have had a premonition last Mother’s Day that my mom’s health was declining more rapidly than we thought because I wrote this final paragraph in a blog post from a year ago. 

Even though Mother’s Day has come and gone, I am pretty sure a lot of us celebrate our moms or celebrate being a mom every day. And for my friends and readers who are struggling over the loss of a mom or the sickness of a mom, I’m sorry. I really am. I know it’s hard to see relationships glamorized on social media when you’re hurting so deeply. All I can say is when I feel like that, I look at the smallest things that hold beauty and for some reason that helps. Here’s to moms everywhere, those in our world and those in our hearts.

And now here I am taking my own advice. It’s breathtaking how quickly life can change. 

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. Hold on to those beautiful moms of yours and pat yourself on the back for a job well-done. Having a wonderful mom and being a mother are two of life’s most precious gifts. Don’t take them for granted. 

(Susanna Barbee can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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