DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley with her husband and child on the day she became a mom

Mother’s Day, Year 2

Mother’s Day has never been easy for me. For years – over a decade – I dreaded this day, as all it did was remind me that my own mom was gone from this earth.

The first Mother’s Day without my mom was awful. But it was also lovely, in a way, as so many people checked in with me. They sent flowers and cards and well-wishes. I felt loved, even if I was really sad that day.

But then came the next Mother’s Day, and the Mother’s Day after that. Gradually, people stopped checking in on me. I grew up, got married, and “got on” with my life. Mother’s Day wasn’t easy, but it was easier. I figured out how to live in this world without my mom, even if certain days brought back real sadness.

And then, eleven years after my mom died, Claire was born and Mother’s Day changed. No longer was it a day about my mom. Instead, it was a day made for me and for our little family. On my first Mother’s Day, Shawn woke up early with Claire, made breakfast for all of us and then Claire promptly threw-up all over everything. Shawn had to wake me up, and we both laughed at how comical my first Mother’s Day had become. “Sorry for puking all over your Mother’s Day brunch” the card from my baby read that year. Each year, when he’d try and orchestrate another Mother’s Day extravaganza, we’d laugh that it couldn’t possibly be worse than the first one.

God, we were so naive.

Last year, I made it through Mother’s Day with a resolute feeling that I was going to be proud of myself if I just managed to stay standing. Everyone checked in with me and I received more cards and notes and hugs than all of the previous years combined. I had a decent night out with my friends and the kids went camping with Shawn’s friends. It was as good as could be expected.

This year I didn’t emotionally steel myself for Mother’s Day like I did last year. I was anxious last week, and I kept telling people I wasn’t sure why – though I think in the back of my mind I knew. But I still went through my week and woke up Saturday morning excited to spend the day with my friends. And it was great. We laughed a lot and had great food and I had glimpses of my old life.

But grief is sneaky.

About halfway through Saturday evening, I started to have this feeling of dread that sometimes creeps up on me. It washed over me in a way I can’t quite describe, bringing up ugly feelings I am somewhat embarrassed to put into print. But I’ll try, because honesty is what I do here. I started to feel one thing, specifically:

I am jealous of my friends.

I know they have their own problems and I know that no one’s lives are perfect. But I couldn’t help this thought running through my head:

I’d trade places with any of you in a heartbeat.

One of my friends has a great husband who asked us to toast her that night. I pushed it to the back of my mind, and only remembered when it was too late. I felt really bad about forgetting, but I’m sure it was a defense mechanism. If I thought about it too much, I knew that I’d start sobbing at the bar – and no one needs that.

Thinking about his sweet gesture – and the many I saw from loving husbands as I scrolled through Facebook this weekend – can almost be too much for me. It’s almost too much for me because it just reminds me, once again, of all that I am missing.

There’s no one left on this earth that remembers the moment each of my children were born. There’s no one in my life who loves me more than anyone in else the world and there’s no one who loves my children like I do. There’s no one who looked at me on Mother’s Day morning and said, “you are the best wife and mother. You hold this family together. You should be celebrated, because you are my rock.”

Yes, people still wrote me cards this year, and yes, my friends reached out to me. Yes, my dad is great and wished me a happy Mother’s Day. Yes, people love me, and yes, I’m lucky to have three kids who bring me so much joy.

But my Mother’s Day will never be normal again, even if my wonderful friends help me to celebrate and even if their generous husbands continue to take my kids camping.

On this day – the day when everyone is supposed to celebrate me – I’ll never feel like the mother I once was. I’ll never feel that way because I’ll always be without the father of my children.


    • Marjorie

      And I remember that you sent me flowers on my first Mother’s Day without my mom. I’ll never forget that. How many people can say they were loved like that by a teacher from high school? xo

  • Steph

    I hear you, Marjorie – it’s a jealousy that’s specific to our kind of grief – you’re happy for them, but the comparison feels so unjust and so insurmountable. It just stings in places you (amazingly) haven’t already hurt in (who knew that was possible?!). Bryce wasn’t there again this year, to make sure all three kids had a card and something to gift me. The younger two came good by dinner time, following the example of their older sister who remembers more. It’s not about ‘stuff’, which is why I didn’t remind them (I had wanted to, to teach our son to value the women in his life as an adult – one more thing that just I will be teaching him). A couple of friends reached out. Everyone in my extended family is married, most with kids younger than ours, so it was also poignant at that dinner this weekend. I remember us married with younger kids – where the hell did that family go?? Who am I now? I agree, grief is sneaky – didn’t expect to be affected this time around but it gets you anyway. Just the same – Happy Mother’s Day, Marjorie xx

    • Marjorie

      Oh, thank you for this sweet comment. And yes – it’s so hard to be with other intact families on days like today even though it’s also wonderful. It’s just a lot of emotion! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Gabe

    Marjorie thank you for being so honest in this post. My heart aches for you and the unimaginable you continue facing with such strength. You are one heck of a mother and person. Keep braving on, my dear! Sending love!

  • Henry

    It cuts both ways. There’s no one left on this earth that remembers the what it was like to go through the adoption and birth of my children. There’s no one in my life who loves me more than anyone in else the world and there’s no one who loves my children like I do. There’s no one I can look at on Mother’s Day morning and said, “you are the best wife and mother. You hold this family together. You should be celebrated, because you are my rock. It is so much harder and more lonely without you.”

    • Marjorie

      Yes – this is true for widowers as well, of course. It’s so hard to not have your person by your side.

  • Kate

    One of the reasons I keep coming back to your blog is because of your honesty. People do not want to be confronted with this honesty, but it is so necessary. Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day alone and it brutally sucked. Nobody from either side of the family thought of me or send Mother’s Day wishes. I am forever grateful to my very thoughtful and emphatic friends who invited me to breakfast and bought flowers and chocolates for my child to give to me. It is not about the ‘presents’ and those things do not mean much to me, but the thought of how difficult it is on this day. Many consider Mother’s Day a ‘Hallmark Holiday’ and in a way it is, but becoming a mother is such a life-changing milestone for any woman. I remember every detail of the day that my child was born and my husband was there with me every minute of it. It was the two of us meeting the life that we created. Words cannot express the feelings that flooded us on that day. Now, it is just me who remembers this day forever. I’m the only one left with the memories and the stories. Life for me and my child has profoundly changed and it will never ever be the same. We may feel joy and happiness at times again and we will move forward and create new memories, but there will always be sadness, always. And this really really sucks.

    • Marjorie

      Ugh – I’m so sorry. Mother’s Day is so damn FRAUGHT for widows and widowers alike. But I’m so glad you have thoughtful friends – I’ve found I had to rely on mine a lot even though I do have a supportive extended family. Because the sadness doesn’t just go away. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Melanie

    I couldn’t add more to this if I tried. I still have my daughter and a beautiful little grandson, but I so miss my husband who made me breakfast and dinner on this day and gave me the entire day to just plant my flowers or do whatever. I can still do those things, but he’s not in the house waiting for me when I’m done, and I make my own dinner if my family isn’t with me. That loneliness hits hard, and nothing…not these days or any other day…will ever be the same. And there’s nothing “new normal” about it. I despise that term, “new normal”…more like harsh, painful reality. At this time, I’m coming to a crossroads in my life and considering retirement. How I wish he were here to help me with this decision. How I miss him, holiday or no holiday.

    • Marjorie

      I’ve actually been thinking a lot about writing about “new normal” because I love/hate the term. I think there’s so much there. Like, will life EVER be normal again?

  • Diane

    Hi Marjorie!
    You put this so well!! Sharing the intimacy of being husband and wife, becoming parents together is a precious and unique bond. It is a loss that is not replaceable and it makes sense that you feel jealous, after all you still want that because it’s wonderful!! Hugs to you – I’m cheering for you