05/11/2012 05:07 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2012

Who's Your 'Mother?'

Mother's Day is almost upon us and everywhere there are advertisements for flowers, brunches, and cards. So what came to my mind? Christmas! Yes, Christmas because I thought about how that holiday triggers depression for many people. I began to think about how I felt about Mother's Day and then how others might feel.

What if someone's mother were dead? It's a reminder of that loss. If someone were adopted they might wonder about their biological mother. If someone was in foster care, would they have anyone worth thinking of as a mother? And if one had a mother, perhaps she wasn't a loving mother. Do these people feel left out and alone?

My mother is now dead, but when she was alive, Mother's Day was an odd experience. She expected cards, flowers, and a visit. She was the mother. I was mostly OK with that; after all she had given birth to me. Nonetheless, part of me felt like it was a lie. She had never been emotionally invested in any of her three children. She certainly had never been the mother any of us needed.

Instead her mother, our grandmother, filled that role. She lived only a half block from my parents home. I always stopped on the way home from school for cookies and milk, a hug, and to debrief on my day. She was the one who expressed sympathy if I'd had a bad day.

I loved having overnights at her house. At my home you never knew when something was going to blow up and you might be in the center of it. Here, I could cuddle up with a TV program and popcorn without the fear of harsh words. She was the one who snuggled while reading me books, or showed me how to bake a pie. Her unconditional love filled the void left by my own mother. She always believed in me, listened to me, valued me, and was concerned about me. When she died I was devastated. I still mourn her loss.

When my actual mother died, I had a hard time feeling much but regret and guilt. I'd tried so hard and had given my mother every opportunity for a meaningful relationship. I really wanted that, but she seemed incapable of it. I came to accept that in my head, but not in my heart.

So, on this Mother's Day, if you don't have a biological mother worth celebrating, think of who has filled this nurturing role. Send a card (it doesn't have to be Mother's Day card, maybe a "thank you" or "you're special") to that mother-in-law, foster mother, aunt, grandmother, or older female friend who offers you love and support. Tell them how much they've meant to you. It will make their day and yours as well.