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Do Mother’s Day Opt-Out Emails Help to Ease Grief? The Jury’s Still Out

Wilted flowers to show indifference to Mother's Day opt-out emails

A funny thing happened the first Mother’s Day after my marriage ended—I was blindsided by an intense wave of grief. Five years later, I don’t know if Mother’s Day opt-out emails go far enough to address the trigger (for me or anyone else!).

When my former husband and I separated, I knew that certain days of the year would be problematic (word to the wise—don’t get married on New Year’s Eve) but I did not expect Mother’s Day to be among them. I knew I’d still have a celebration with my daughters, Sophie (then seven) and Juliette (then four), so I didn’t really give it much thought.

But the second Sunday in May didn’t fall on a weekend that I had my girls, so, for the first Mother’s Day since I’d held Soph in my arms, I woke up without them. Where I was used to excited little girls with homemade cards appearing at my bedside, I awoke to quiet. It didn’t matter that I knew I’d see them in just a few hours—it was an avoidable reminder of what I’d lost. It literally took my breath away. Many people have asked me over the years if I like having time to myself (once someone even asked me if I had the “dream scenario” of part-time parenting) and I always think about that morning, and just how much grief there was hanging in the silence. (For the record, it’s not the dream scenario. It sucks.)

I cannot imagine how much deeper this grief goes for mothers who have lost children, mothers who are struggling to conceive, mothers who have lost their own moms…the list goes on. Since that first year, I have learned to safeguard against my pain—I make sure I have the kids the night before, and we decide together how to spend the day—but it is truly unavoidable for many others.

In recent years, many brands have sent out emails in advance of Mother’s Day allowing people to opt out of the upcoming messaging. And while it’s a start, I don’t really get how Mother’s Day opt-out emails are any different than the promo emails themselves. (Honestly, I feel weird even writing this piece, knowing it will show up on social and potentially cause someone heartache.) It feels a little bit like, “Hey, we see you but we’re still going to send out Mother’s Day stuff, so if you want us to leave you out, click here.” I know that it’s a step toward respecting another person’s lived experience, but I guess I wonder if it’s really the solution.

But I can’t say I even know what the solution is. I’m on board with celebrating moms and all they do for their families, but not at the expense of others. I suppose the same thing could be said about any other holiday—loss of pretty much any kind can colour the calendar—but I can’t help thinking that we should be thanking parents for all they do in our daily lives, not just once a year. Especially if it means that we can save someone from unnecessary sorrow.

I’m not saying down with Mother’s Day (am I?). I think I’m just saying maybe we don’t need it. Maybe we just need to be more mindful to show gratitude the other 364 days a year, too.

But don’t send me an email to ask me about it, either.

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