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Dear Mothers,

When my youngest daughter was actively using heroin, the holidays were difficult. Mother’s Day was, by far, the prize winner. I spent the day dwelling on the possibility that I might never have a Mother’s Day with all of my children by my side; the reward for having dried oceans of tears, wiped noses and butts, and attended every type of game or performance imaginable. Having raised four children I found it impossible to enjoy the other three knowing that one of them may not be alive at that time next year.

I was not over reacting. I had watched the previous year as mother after mother lost her child. I went to funerals and hugged broken families and whispered the same meaningless expressions of sympathy, where no words suffice. Helpless to offer comfort for which there is no comfort. My own fears of possible loss reinforced.

A very wise woman who I look to like a mother now that my own is gone told me once, “You are only as happy as your most unhappy child.” It was painfully true.

So many years later I am blessed that I will spend time with my beautiful daughter and enjoy my other children. That fear of her not being here next year is all but gone, replaced by the normal fears of an ordinary mother who worries too much, making her text me when she goes home from my house, as well as the occasional fear of avalanches, alien abductions and myriad of other things that defy reality.  I look back and wish I had spent more time enjoying my other children over the years on this day because the truth of the matter is that, although when we exist in the hell of active addiction, our chances of loss are exponentially increased, we are not promised any more than the minute we exist in with anyone.

So, if you are lucky enough to have your children healthy, try not to spend too much time worrying about what might happen tomorrow. Live in this moment, even if just for today.

If your child is struggling or you are missing a child today for any reason and you have other children, remember that they didn’t ask for this any more than you did. Try to count your blessings rather than your heartaches. They need you and you need them.

If your only child is out there somewhere and you are living in the terror, a feeling I will never forget, try to take a few minutes and do something nice for yourself. For me that always meant a pint of Ben and Jerrys, but do what makes you happy.  You deserve it. Try to be hopeful too, because this time next year you might be, like me, celebrating with your child who looks a lot better than you ever dared to dream.

And for all of us, pick up the phone, text, email or send some flowers to the mother that has lost her child due to addiction or any other reason. Ask her if she wants to get out for a while. Don’t assume you know she wants to be alone. We never know what someone else needs. Ask!  Then be there. Listen to her stories if she wants to talk. Call her child by their name. The women that have paid the ultimate price, many of them mother to their own grandchildren, deserve a day to celebrate themselves and all that they have been through.

I carry you all in my heart. God bless and Happy Mother’s Day to us all.

– Maureen Cavanagh

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