by Christy Gualtieri
I celebrated my second Mother’s Day this year, and it was a lovely day – I got to sleep in for a few hours, and my husband and son pulled out all the stops in making me feel appreciated. When my son took a longer-than-usual nap (another big gift to me!), I logged onto Facebook and among all of the joyous messages to and from fellow moms, I read a post from a friend of mine, who is appropriately named Joy. Joy is one of the most wonderful, beautiful people I know, who shines from the inside out, and it broke my heart a little to read her message:
Hey guys. Before you wax eloquent about Mother’s Day– and repost memes like, “Love your mother because you’ll never have another!”– please think of those of us who have lost our mothers or have been rejected by them. Not everyone has a mother who’s still around to take our calls or love us unconditionally. Many of us have lost our mommies or have [messed] up family situations. Mother’s Day can be an especially painful reminder of this. So just…hug your mommy if you have one and be kind to those of us who don’t.
Joy and her mother haven’t spoken meaningfully in five years, since Joy told her mother she was gay. Her mother has since disowned her. On a day that so many people celebrate the relationship they have with their mothers, Joy was grieving the loss of hers, and her short Facebook post was a powerful reminder to me that although life is full of many reasons to celebrate, there is never an excuse to forget about those around us who are hurting and who are in need of compassion.
Joy wasn’t alone. There was Barbara too, a woman who has known me since the day I was born. Her mother was in her nineties when she passed away last year, and this was Barbara’s first Mother’s Day – in six decades – without her. And there was Christine, whose mother simply vanished one day when she was in high school. For over a decade she was left wondering where she was, or what happened to her – many Mother’s Days passing over her like a shadow. She recently found out her mother had died, but so many questions still remain for her and her family.
The word compassion means “to suffer with,” and it’s more than just pity. It transcends sympathy. It’s a willingness to go deep into a painful place to help a friend’s suffering be lessened, if even just for a short time. It’s the ability to open yourself up to take on part of someone else’s pain; and if you are the one who is suffering, it’s being vulnerable enough to let someone else see your pain and share in it with you.
One of the lessons I hope to share with my son is that exercising compassion does not diminish your life: instead, it expands it. It forces us to look outside ourselves, to be joined with each other in the truth that we belong to one another.
Holidays are always a wonderful time to remember and celebrate our families. Let’s continue making them a time to show compassion and unconditional love to those around us, as well!
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at openthoseojos.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!