It's impossible to escape Mother's Day.
While the intent is to show some love for the first person with whom we are wired to bond, it can be a painful day for many. It's an occasion touched with grief for anyone who lost a mother too young, and for women who struggle with infertility or who have lost a child.
But there's another group rarely discussed around the commercial celebration of motherhood: those who were raised by unloving, abusive or narcissistic mothers.
Across cultures, a mother is considered synonymous with selfless love: a child's natural protector. In the wild, a mama bear is the ultimate fierce guardian. For those who grew up with this kind of loving, protective mother, it's hard to imagine what it's like being raised by someone so broken she leaves lasting scars.
Rayne Wolfe, author of "Toxic Mom Toolkit: Discovering a Happy Life Despite Toxic Parenting," is familiar with dreading Mother's Day. The run-up to the holiday can be crushing for those who grew up in an abusive family, she said.
"I was neglected. I was literally not fed. I was exposed to sexual abuse and abused by my mother's second husband," she said. Wolfe remembers trying to wake up her mother, passed out from drinking, as a child when she was hungry.
Her mother would ask to see her hands.
"If my hands weren't shaking, she wouldn't feed me," she said.
Making things worse, young victims tend to be ashamed of what they have experienced, and often hide their parent's abuse or neglect.
Mother's Day isn't the only holiday that can be a trigger point for emotional wreckage -- Valentine's Day is rough after a breakup, as is Christmas without a loved one.
But there's an added terribleness when even the premise of the holiday taunts you.
Mother's Day is a major commercial event, with total spending projected to reach $21.4 billion this year -- outpacing Valentine's Day by nearly a couple billion. The bombardment in store displays and advertisements is matched by the outpouring of social media tributes. Public adoration flows through our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram timelines all weekend. I enjoy publicly celebrating my own phenomenal mother, but the day is fraught for those who had to seek refuge from a mother, rather than turn to her for protection and support.
Wolfe, who said she went through a lot of therapy to understand what happened to her as a child, advocates self-protection: In some cases, it makes sense to limit, or even end, contact. Emotional abuse is just as traumatic as physical abuse.
When her mother was dying, a social worker from the hospital called Wolfe and suggested it might be time for her to "bury the hatchet."
Wolfe asked the social worker if she had ever met Wolfe's mother. She suggested spending some time with her, and then calling Wolfe back if she still believed she needed to be there.
"I never heard from her again," she said.
As an adult, she has nurtured an online community of those who have suffered from toxic relationships with their mothers. She asks them to start planning, six weeks out, what they will do on Mother's Day. She gives her readers permission to skip family events that leave them feeling worthless or sad. She encourages them to see their parent with adult eyes.
"It's disheartening when you are a good person, and you don't have a loving mother figure in your life," she said. Those who were not mothered can feel very isolated.
Fortunately for Wolfe, her father remarried when she was 16. She describes her stepmother, whom Wolfe cared for as she aged, as a beautiful and lovely person.
"There was a part of me that could never trust an older woman," she said. Her stepmother helped heal that part.
Proving that it takes a lot more than biology to be a mother.