Grief on Mother's Day
and Finding Comfort in a Charlotte Mason Homeschool
I was fortunate enough to hold my mother’s hand as she died.
I comforted her and told her that I would take good care of my father, whom she left behind. As she slipped away from us, I looked out the window and saw the glow of a deep red-orange sunset enveloping the sky. It was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. And I thought to myself, “That’s fitting”; for all the beauty and love that radiated within my mother was now dispersing into the universe, taking flight, becoming a different kind of love; a different kind of radiance.
Did she die of Covid? No. Cancer. Almost 10 years ago.
But no matter the circumstances, a loss so profound does not leave you.
The ICU doctor told us about the cancer on Christmas day. I heard words like “stage 4” and “metastasis.” But even so, there was talk of sending my mother home; of various kinds of treatments; there were options.
And so, we braced ourselves for the difficult months that lay ahead; the months we dreaded but also longed for. But it was time we would never see. She was gone 3 days later.
This kind of gut-wrenching grief lingers no matter how many years have lapsed. It colors every joyous occasion with just the slightest tinge of melancholy. Oh, how I wish she could see my son graduate this year. He was only eight when she died. They were so close. My daughter, only three at the time, does not even remember my mother.
Why do I share this story with you now, on Mother’s Day? In the midst of a year that has been so difficult for so many; perhaps even you?
Because grief knows no holidays, no respite. And grief never leaves you. It might abate a little, but it’s always there. Like me, you might find some days incredibly difficult because you desperately miss your own mother, or another loved one who mothered you. You might be grieving over a lost child or a strained relationship with a living child.
This is a picture of my mother swinging with my son when he was little. They had such fun together. She was such a fun Grandma. And I know he still misses her terribly.
She was my best friend; my Matron-of-Honor at my wedding; my role model. She was always there, an ever-present guiding light. I had never even contemplated a world without her.
Memories like these are such a blessing, but still, grief lingers. It attaches itself to every happy moment, past, present, and future.
But I have also learned that “grief is just love with no place to go.”
And so, after my mother’s death, I needed to give all that grief, all that “love with no place to go,” a destination, an outlet.
Too many of us turn to unhealthy outlets to compensate for the love we cannot give. And my first reaction was to not get out of bed. At all. But I had little ones and they needed me. But when you are in a crisis, in survival mode, it can be difficult to make good decisions.
So instead of staying in bed all day every day, I decided to throw myself into homeschooling and do “all the stuff” to keep me busy so I wouldn’t have to think about my mother’s death.
We had always homeschooled – and had always used the Charlotte Mason method – but I had also succumbed to the idea, like so many other moms, that I had to “do it all” and do it “perfectly” or I would be failing my children. So, I did more. And more. And added this and added that.
Of course, I soon found myself completely overwhelmed and felt like I was drowning.
Then I did the opposite and decided to follow the oft-given advice to “cut back until you find peace.” But that didn’t work either. I just felt like more of a failure because now we were only doing the bare minimum and I still felt completely overwhelmed.
We were basically just doing the “three Rs” and I instinctively felt that there was something missing. I needed comfort. I needed joy. I needed beauty.
And then I remembered the reason I chose the Charlotte Mason method in the first place: The Beauty.
The beauty of nature; the beauty of a work of art; the beauty of a folk song.
I realized I was missing the beauty. I had let all of those “riches” fall by the wayside because of the belief that those subjects are “extra-curricular” activities and not as important as the “main” subjects.
But it is through interactions with beauty that we find comfort and peace.
The beauty of a sunset; the beauty of a kind word; the beauty of a mess made by the little ones we cherish; the beauty of a flower or a bumblebee; the beauty of a hand that reaches out to offer comfort. The beauty of a Charlotte Mason homeschool.
After my mother’s death, I found comfort and beauty in our Charlotte Mason homeschool. And I was intentional about scheduling beauty into our days – every day. And keeping it simple. Very simple. Because that’s what I needed – what we all needed – simple days filled with intentional beauty and comfort.
And so I hope you will hear me when I say that it doesn’t have to be complicated or mapped out on a spreadsheet with little time-table cards. Let all that go.
You need transformation, not information. Comfort, not content.
Whether you’re dealing with grief, some other life-altering event, or you just feel deep-down that something isn’t right – with your homeschool, your home, your relationships. Those are dark places to be in. You’re in a crisis and you’re trying to recover. I see you.
Give yourself permission to focus on the beauty.
What’s important is your mental and emotional health – and your relationship with your children. They are affected by this crisis as well. All of you need beauty and joy and comfort. Let all the rest go.
So on this Mother’s Day, I would like to think that I am honoring my mother by knowing that she would be happy to see me focusing on the beauty instead of the pain.
After my mother’s funeral, I received a card that said, in lieu of flowers, someone had planted a tree in my mother’s name. And I think, like the sunset, it’s a fitting metaphor for what she would want:
I wish for you to flower too, my friend. To know the peace and comfort that you deserve.
I hope you will join me in my next post where I will share exactly what I did to help bring peace and joy and comfort back into my home. It’s so simple but yet so profound. And it changed our home and our homeschool for the better.
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And may you be comforted this Mother’s Day and every day.