As another Mother’s Day comes and goes, I am choosing to pause and reflect on a few of the lessons I have learned on my mom journey thus far. I am a different kind of mom. I am a mother of twins who lost one of her children much too soon. This doesn’t make me a more special mom; it makes me a mom who experiences an incredible amount of special kind of sadness. As someone who lives with this extraordinary pain, I try to pay special care and attention to the kind of mother I am choosing to be. This means taking the time to notice, think about, and reflect on what I am learning as I continue to grow as a mom.

I think the first thing I have learned is that my daughter is watching everything I do. I used to think I could get away with things, but as a mom of a teenager, I now know that is not true. As a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist, I realize I want more than anything not to pass this trait on to her. I want her to mess up, learn the hard lessons, and know that she is still good enough. I want her to be a little reckless, try scary things, and know that she will still be loved.  I want her to make lots of mistakes (well, maybe not LOTS), then turn around and ask the tough question: What did I learn from this? Because I am only learning to do this myself, I hope it is not too late for her. I recognize that in order for her to learn this, I also have to take a risk and do the hard things. Most importantly, I want to talk about the learnings with her along the way.

The next lesson is this: it is okay to be sad. I have spent many years hiding my sadness, mainly because I didn’t want to make anyone else sad. I was afraid that if I fell apart, then I would cause the domino effect with my family and close friends.  You know – one falls and then the whole row goes down quickly. It turns out that hiding my sadness has only exacerbated my grieving process. I now know that I am not that powerful, and I am not responsible for anyone else’s feelings. I shouldn’t try to keep my sadness at bay for the purpose of rescuing others. Not feeling how I feel has hurt not only me, but others as well. I will no longer hid my sadness.  When I am sad, I am sad; now I have the ability to acknowledge it, talk about it, and not hide from it. The funny thing is that in realizing this, I have discovered that feeling sad and being sad are very different things. I can feel sad – and it is okay! – but I no longer have to be sad. I can feel sadness and still view the world from a place of gratitude and happiness. Bad things will happen along the way – I am not pretending they won’t – but I am stronger now and have an amazing support system to help me through whatever comes my way.

The final lesson is letting go. This one has shown up over and over again; there are so many places where I have learned to let go. These opportunities have occurred with relationships, expectations of myself and others, and choosing happiness over grief. Once I started to realize that I am enough and not responsible for everyone else, I let go of needing to please everyone.  I decided that if I am going to be in relationship with people, then it will be because I choose it, not because I feel obligated. I continue to work on letting go of my expectations of perfection and now instead actively seek out where I am making mistakes, call those mistakes out, and really try hard to not make them again.

Finally, the biggie: I realized on this Mother’s Day that sadness and hope are not mutually exclusive. I learned and am working to embrace that I can be sad and be hopeful at the same time. That even amidst the sadness, there is always hope.