Farm Progress

On Mother's Day and pre-grieving 10894

Mother's Day can be hard, for any number of reasons. Could 'pre-grieving' help shift the sadness and preserve the day?

Holly Spangler, Prairie Farmer Senior Editor

May 4, 2016

3 Min Read

It’s just a few days before Mother’s Day and I’m here in my office, spring sunshine and wind outside my windows. Corn is planted, beans are started. Another season has begun.

I came across this piece of writing this morning, on pre-grieving. It’s worth a read, but the idea is that you intentionally grieve a loss before a big date or holiday, so as not to entirely ruin that day.


Though I think it has merit, I have never once thought of pre-grieving. I never knew that was a thing. Or that I could do it. In the grief I’ve known in my life, I’ve approached substantial dates and holidays as something to be endured and gotten through. I didn’t give them a lot of forethought; I planted my feet and braced for the impact, like a wave that has to come and that I couldn’t do anything about but try to stay upright. Smile and cry and make it through. On to the next thing.

In the past couple years, however, I think I’ve actually tried this pre-grieving thing, without calling it that. March is difficult, bringing with it a season of ‘lasts’ and milestone dates: Mom’s birthday, the day she died, my birthday – so many dates intertwined. The year Mom died, it was 80 degrees in March in southern Illinois and her daffodils were blooming like crazy. So the past couple years as March approached, I’ve intentionally gotten out the daffodil quilt, I’ve bought daffodils, I’ve put out more yellow. It reminds me of the hope we really had in that season. It helped.

This year, we’re approaching the fourth Mother’s Day without my mom. People say time heals but that’s not true; you just get used to living without. You adjust your sails and you get used to them being that way. People forget. You’re compelled to move forward.

Maybe it’s the same for you this year. Maybe this is a first holiday without for you. Maybe you’re struggling with how to celebrate it. For our family, the first Mother’s Day came just a few weeks after Mom died. My poor kids didn’t know what to do and we needed to do something entirely different, and so we did. I knew I didn’t have it in me to sit through a sermon on mothers, so we visited friends and met my dad halfway across the state, between our farms. It was different and it was right.

Mother’s Day can be hard for a lot of reasons; I have friends who’ve lost children, friends who’ve lost mothers. Friends who didn’t have the mother they wanted. Friends who haven’t had the baby they wanted.

It’s hard. Life is hard.

But this idea of pre-grieving – of setting aside the day and the time ahead of time to mourn and remember – I think it has a lot of merit. Being purposeful can bring peace when the milestone date finally arrives. We can release some sadness and still preserve the day to honor the really awesome mothers in our lives: those friends and family and sisters and women of our tribes that show us the way daily.  

Here’s wishing for lots of those for all of us this Mother’s Day.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Prairie Farmer Senior Editor, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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