I remember the morning after my mom died. I let my dogs out in the backyard and sat on the patio chair, thinking "She won't see another sunrise" and "She's not here today." Even though my mom hadn't "been there" for years due to her Alzheimer's, knowing her physical presence was no longer in the world was strange. Like a puzzle piece with a bent corner that fits but not entirely right. It was weird to witness how the world simply went on. Everything other than me was exactly the same as it had been all the other mornings before. The mindfuck was real.
The first Mother's Day after her passing was disconcerting; different from the way it was when she was physically alive but "she" wasn't really inside of herself anymore. The first Mother's Day after her death I wanted to be away -- not that there's really a place that you can go to get away from your own thoughts. I just remember that I thought not being home would make it easier for me. A distraction of sorts. So I took a trip to visit a friend in Denver.
I've found that my #1 coping mechanism has been to stay busy. If you're busy, you're less likely to be alone with yourself. I've also found that the pressure of holidays tends to make me act weird and nervous. Like the pressure to be on and perform on a special day, whether that's Christmas or Father's Day or birthdays, sets me on edge. "I don't know what to do with my hands!" is how every cell in my body feels. Going away to see a friend felt like the right thing to do that first year, and I'm glad I did it. I was graciously invited to join their Mother's Day activities after I offered to just go do my own thing. I didn't want to be a bother or intrude on their family time. They dismissed this as nonsense because that's the sort of wonderful people they are. We went to a nice brunch and then a walk around the botanical gardens. I got to be part of a family, stay busy, not be alone with my own mind, and not feel pressure to perform. It was the best Mother's Day I can remember.
Even now, years later, I don't like Mother's Day. I don't like Father's Day. I feel like an asshole saying it but it's how I feel. I forget these days exist until I see my social media feeds fill with photos and memories from others. But I can't participate in the heartfelt messages. I try to stay off my phone as much as possible on these days. I'm not there yet. I don't know if I ever will be.
I also don't want anyone to check in on me. I don't want the pitying (my interpretation) messages or other people's memories of my mom aimed at me. I accept it from maybe three people; people who know. Maybe it's the introvert in me, but I retreat. I know there are others who want to share memories of their moms who have passed on this day and that's great for them. Maybe they find it healing or cathartic or happy by doing this. I don't.
I wish I could say that the first Mother's Day after was the hardest, but that's not true for me. They're all hard. The first one was surreal, the rest are painful and day-long reminders of what I don't have. Pretty much every other day I can put it out of my mind but the all-day onslaught of other people's moms is too much for me. I'd rather stay in my house, bake cookies, watch mind-numbing TV, and play Candy Crush for 16 hours. That's my self-care on this day.
Sometimes my mind goes down the rabbit hole of what would my mom think about this or what other people would think if I actually said aloud everything I just admitted to here. I have to shut that down quick because it's a spiral to nowhere. I cannot live my life according to what I think others expect of me and I certainly can't allow the judgments of people who don't get it to play a part in how I feel or behave. There is no right way of grief (other that to not let it overtake your entire life) and I certainly know this. But sometimes I get caught into that trap and I have to remind myself that I'm doing the best I can, every day, and that's ok for today.