How One Brand’s Gesture Reminded Me Grief Isn’t An Inconvenience

And it’s possible to change Mother’s Day emails

It all started with an email. First the one that I got sent to my inbox by a dear friend with a subject line that read, “Thought this was really cool.”

The body of the email was a link to this Twitter thread:

For context, I am someone for whom Mother’s Day is really hard. After losing my mom when I was 10 years old, Mother’s Day was never the same. I would still get my grandma (legal guardian) a card, but it was always with a sense of nostalgia. That nostalgia got mixed in with even more grief when my grandma died in 2014 and left me with no one else I could call mom on Mother’s Day.

Over the years the May holiday made my triggers very obvious. In grade school it was card making Fridays and in high school I was introduced to Mother-Daughter events. All subtle reminders that I couldn’t belong, no matter how badly I wanted to.

Graduating out of the school system, I’d naively hoped that my external triggers for sadness or grief would be less present. Like, now that no one was going to ask me to fold a pink piece of construction paper in half to make a card that maybe I could bring my grief to the table on my own terms. I understood early on that Mother’s Day would always be hard for me, but I just wanted a world where “opting-out” of some of the triggers was an option offered.

Then, I started getting the emails. The ones that came with adulthood and consumerism— stores I’d once upon a time signed up for so that I could get the 20% discount code were coming back to haunt me on the hardest day of the year. Their emails were full of pink flowers, ideal gift baskets mom would love, or the engraved bracelet she would always remember.

Where they saw joy, inclusivity, and celebration, I saw exclusion and no space for my kind of Mother’s Day experience. Living through Mother’s Day when you’ve lost a mom, have a tense relationship with your mom, or never knew your mom, means that you often don’t get acknowledged for fear of spooking the rest. It’s like your tears soak all Mother’s Day cards everywhere or like your stories bring in too many reminders of mortality.

On some level I get it because I know talking about grief and death is hard, but it shouldn’t be an inconvenience. We all have the power to extend a gesture that tells someone — I know this is hard and I see you.

Every April I’ve hoped for brands to understand the power they wield when the land in my inbox and every April I’ve been disappointed. Until April 12, 2021 when the founder of Three Ships Beauty decided to put human feelings over a uniform newsletter strategy.

The message was so simple too:

Because the truth is that it’s never had to be more complicated than — hey, I know this can be a hard time, we’ll still keep you posted on other stuff, just no need to add to your grief.

We can choose to include all experiences during “big” holidays simply by acknowledging they exist, understanding that not every holiday is for everyone, and that we all have a role to play in shifting how we invite grief into the conversation.

I write about creativity, mental health, grief, and how to cope with life’s everyday challenges on Follow along on my Instagram for mini-essays on the same topics, and sign up for a weekly newsletter of encouragement.

I write daily about creativity, grief and mental health.

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