By Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis
Mother’s Day! The words conjure a picture of a loving mother surrounded by her children and loving family, receiving flowers, gifts, and mushy cards from her progeny, celebrating the sacrifice and love of motherhood.
This Mother’s Day the above scenario will take place again, all over the country. It will be a wonderful day for so many, a chance to say Thank You Mom for always being there for me, for loving me even during times when I wasn’t so lovable.
Mothers will be filled with pride and gratitude and all past transgressions will be forgotten, at least for the day. Tomorrow will bring everyone back to reality, but for this one day, it will be a time to unabashedly proclaim our love for the woman who gave us life.
As we go about our daily activities interacting with others, we’ll hear the inevitable Happy Mother’s Day greetings, from friends and even strangers, the cashier at the supermarket. This innocuous greeting, a kind pleasantry for many, is like a knife to the heart for the Other Mothers.
Who are the Other Mothers? We are the ones who won’t be celebrating this Mother’s Day in sync with the rest of the country. We are the ones who people tend to shy away from, especially on holidays and most especially on this one day set aside to celebrate us! Who are we? We are the mothers of a deceased child. To compound matters, we are not only the mothers of a deceased child, but we are the mothers of a child who is deceased from drugs! I can almost feel you recoil as you read these words. I know. I used to be of the same mindset until I became an Other Mother.
We may have other children, children whom we absolutely love and adore and would give our life for. That is a given. Because we mourn our deceased child, that does not diminish the love that we have for our other child or children. However, on Mother’s Day the heartbreak of the loss of that child is more acutely felt, although we feel this heartbreak every day. From the time we lift our head off the pillow in the morning, until we lay it down again at night, no matter what activity is going on around us, our minds and hearts are consumed with thoughts of our child who is no longer with us. Our child who died from the disease of addiction.
There are 365 days in a year and each one of them has a special dedication, whether it be a nationally known holiday such as Mother’s Day, Christmas, Hannukah, Veterans’ Day or some obscure day such as National Blame It On Somebody Else Day. Whatever the day, there is a national something or other attached to it, quite often more than one. How about a National Mother’s Day for Mothers Who Have Lost a Child to the Disease of Addiction? Why not? Is it any stranger than National Don’t Go To Work Unless It’s Fun Day or any of a host of other national faux holidays?
I’m certainly not ashamed that my child died of addiction. I’m far too busy being heartbroken every day to worry about shame. I am deeply saddened and tortured by the loss of my beloved child but never ever ashamed. He had a disease.
Addiction is a brain disease. The addicted person has no more control over their disease than someone suffering from diabetes or cancer does. Their struggle is just as painful and difficult for them.
Most addicted people start down their destructive path when they are children. Children don’t consider the consequences of their actions and they think they’re invincible. Ultimately they discover that it is the drugs that are invincible.
So on this Mother’s Day while everyone is celebrating the joys of motherhood, whether you’re already a mother or about to become one, I hope you will take a moment to ponder the Other Mothers. The Other Mothers who will be smiling on the outside while trying to quell the raging volcano of grief that is erupting on the inside as we fight with all of our being to prevent it from spewing forth and demoralizing everyone around us. We don’t want that. We don’t want to deny other mothers their well-deserved day of recognition. We also do not want you to join our ranks. What we do want is to have our child acknowledged, and remembered. We want them remembered for the kind, caring, loving children that they were, not for the disease that ravaged their minds and bodies.
Our children lived and were loved and are still loved. They abound in our thoughts and hearts every moment of our lives. If we happen to meet on this Mother’s Day, please don’t be afraid to acknowledge the day. You don’t even have to utter those words “Happy Mother’s Day.” If you will just acknowledge our child, say his or her name and if you have any remembrances of them, this would be a nice time to say so. You can’t hurt us by talking about them. In fact, you can bet if you do talk about our child, you will see a genuine smile envelop our face and I know that will make us both feel good.
Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis is the author of the book “I Am Your Disease (The Many Faces of Addiction)” published by Outskirts Press. You can read about, and purchase the book at www.iamyourdisease.com
I am a retired medical transcriptionist and radio DJ who also did voiceovers for TV. Married, with one living son, having lost my youngest son Scott, who was a paramedic and an RN to the disease of addiction. Happily married for 40 years to Jack, 8th grade science teacher. My oldest son Dale is soon to be a graduate student in Ecology and Environmental Biology.
We live in Palm Bay, Florida. I am originally from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia and am a citizen of both Australia and the US. We are owned by one dog and two cats!
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