Mother’s Day can be a surprisingly difficult holiday. While most of the world gushes about the day with flowers and cards, others are hiding the pain of infertility, mourning a loss, or wrestling through a strained relationship.
For me, it’s a reminder that I’m not exactly where I’d like to be in life right now. While I was never in a rush to have kids, the plan was to start the conversation as we approached our 30s. Since we were dating, my husband Joey and I had wanted to do foster care. It’s how we pictured our family.
But Joey got sick at 24. And as the years have gone by and his illness has gotten more complex, It’s been clear to us that kids are not the right path.
There are days when this reality is incredibly difficult. Mother’s Day brings up a different kind of pain every year.
If you’re hurting this Mother’s Day, or if you’re just not where you’d like to be in life, let me tell you how my therapist’s “pasture of unicorns” theory has helped me:
1. Recognize your unicorns
We all have a picture of what our lives would look like: kids by 30, retirement by 60, a successful marriage….or anything else that you once imagined for yourself or your family. That’s your unicorn.
Here’s the problem with unicorns: they’re not real (sorry, kids). The unicorn you are focusing on was never promised to you. It’s imaginary. It’s a myth. The first step in sorting through these emotions is realizing what has taken up too much of your attention in your pasture of unicorns.
2. Grieve your unicorn
Just because it isn’t real doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It’s painful to admit that something is missing in your life. It can feel impossible to accept that it might never happen.
So, take the time to grieve. There will be times you’ll even have to re-grieve a unicorn when it re-enters your pasture. It’s ok to understand the complex emotions associated with it and be sad for a little while.
3. Focus on what’s real
While it hurts to watch a unicorn gallup away, that doesn’t mean that your pasture is empty. Focus on what’s real and good in your life.
For example: I get to shower my nieces and nephews with dumb trinkets, I get to be auntie to my friends kids, we can take on foster puppies, and in general, there’s more emotional availability for the people in my life because of my circumstances.
4. Guard your pasture
Finally, realize that there are moments that may be harder than others. It’s ok to avoid certain triggers, if possible.
For example, if Mother’s Day is difficult, it’s ok to skip church. Yes, a blog from a Christian radio station is saying that it’s ok to skip church.
Worship at home. Be gentle with yourself. And take the day to focus on what’s real.