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Here's why Mother's Day is the worst day of the year for many

The worst day? Yes. For me. One thing I'm sure of is that I'm not alone in feeling an enormous sense of sadness and loss when Mother's Day comes around. I know there are many other men and women, of all ages, who go through the day without their mothers by their side.

The only small mercy is that it is but once a year. Let me tell you why it's the worst day for me:

The sadness is not about the absence of or receiving gifts I didn't want. Although I've been there. Nor is it about going to a restaurant with terrible customer service, when I would have been happy with a box of pizza and a picnic on our front lawn. Although I've done that too.

I know there are mothers who would like to be appreciated, for just one day – maybe have the chance to sleep in, enjoy breakfast served to them in bed, or simply some me-time to themselves. And let's not forget the women who long to be mothers, but are not.

So what makes the day so terrible for me?

It is the one day that I miss my own mom beyond measure.

She passed away when I was eight years old. Since then, I've managed to grow up, study, get married and have a family of my own.

Yet, as I experience and see love given to mothers on this special day, I cannot help but feel incredible sadness about the loss of my own mother. It cuts deep into my heart. And it doesn't matter that it happened a long time ago. There will always be a space in my heart that only my mother could fill.

It doesn't matter what age you are, we all want our mommies. It doesn't get easier.

So I figured, maybe I haven't dealt with her absence properly. Maybe I have undealt-with feelings that I never got to process.

So I decided to pen a letter to her in an attempt to express how I feel:

Dear Ma,

0-8 years: I have many photos but only have fleeting memories about you, the first ones from around the time I was five years old; and the stories my older siblings shared about you, to rely on. I remember driving around with you in our small neighbourhood; and walking to fields to look for and pick herbs and plants you used for your traditional herbal remedies. I remember standing next to you, at your sewing machine, to receive my punishment - the pinching of the fleshy skin under my arm - whenever I was naughty. You also used the wooden spoon quite liberally, but I respected you for it. How I wish I could've had you over for tea whenever we played "pophuisie" in the yard. We never got to dress up in matching outfits. I also don't remember us baking cookies together, even though a lot of baking went on in our house.

You were such an incredible example to your eleven children – a strong woman, shown by the fact that we were all born at home, with just the help of a midwife. You were feisty, independent, and a pacesetter way ahead of your time.

You worked so hard, as you made and sold food to mineworkers; was a female taxi driver (the only one in our small town and in a smart Volvo) in the 60s. You were a homemaker, who cooked well, sewed, and, on top of that, the community's unofficial "social worker". Being called in by exasperated wives to "sort out" their errant husbands, was all in a day's work for you.

And then, my world came crashing down. I will never forget having to brush your hair for you, after you had your first stroke, and being a pillar for you to lean on when you relearned how to walk. To this day, I hate the smell of hospitals. It was the place you went to and never came back from.

9 to 18: How would you have explained about the birds and the bees to me? Would you have talked plainly or would you have used the book, Wat Meisies Will Weet, as one of my sisters had to do when I turned 13?

During the last four years of high school – at an all girls one – I felt guilty that I was the only girl in my class who didn't have a mother. Can you believe that?

I wished I could've told you about the boys I liked.

I longed to ask for your advice when I felt so awkward and alone, not knowing how to deal with what I felt, or that it was perfectly normal and simply "hormones flying all over the place".

It would've been amazing to be able to go with you to pick out the material for my matric dance dress and to make a turn in front of you, to show off the final product before I left for the dance.

19-30: To get an education was an important matter to you, something you ingrained in all your children. I wonder what you would have made of my study choices and eventual career. That love of books that you fostered in us, has come in very handy over the years. You'd be very happy to know that.

You were not there to offer me something old on my wedding day or to calm my nerves. Instead, I relied on a friend to fix my hair and to make sure it was "just so" before I walked down the aisle.

I am sure you would've loved my husband. You would've told me that I chose very well and am the luckiest wife in the world.

How I missed you when I gave birth to my children. It was one of my sisters-in-law who travelled over 5 000 km to offer advice and to teach me how to deal with a colicky baby. And it was one of my best friends who sat with me in the labour ward before the birth of my second child. My two boys will never have the chance to be spoiled by their granny or to soak up your wisdom.

30+ As we grow up and become our own persons, we are often determined not to become "like our mothers" or to repeat their mistakes. While I make an effort to look after my health by exercising, eating healthily and keeping my blood pressure in the healthy range, I do wish I could cook or sew like you did. I wish I had your entrepreneurial spirit and the way you connected with and helped a lot of people.

Mostly, I simply wish I could have had you around for longer than eight years.

And so, as another Mother's Day comes along, I continue to strive to imitate your good qualities and to be the best mother that I can be. That, I believe, is the highest compliment I can give you.

Thank you for the memories and for being my mom. I could not have asked for anyone better.

Much love,

Your daughter

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