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Like all holidays, Mother’s Day can bring up complicated feelings. For some people, Mother’s Day is a day set aside to celebrate the moms in their life, and for others it is a painful reminder of grief.
It can be difficult for people with positive relationships with their mothers to understand the complicated feelings that Mother’s Day can bring. Feeling grief on Mother’s Day doesn’t mean that you don’t love your mother, or that you aren’t happy to be a mother.
The grief that comes up on holidays like Mother’s Day or other grief anniversaries can exist alongside other emotions, like the love you feel for your mother or the happiness you have for being a mother. It’s very human to have complicated feelings, even though it can feel overwhelming and even scary when they come up unexpectedly.
Here are just some of the reasons why people might be grieving on Mother’s Day:
- Death of their mother, mother figure, or child
- Estrangement from their mother, mother figure, or child
- Infertility and struggling to become a mother
- Miscarriage, infant, or child loss
- Believing they’re not a good enough mother
- Not having a mother or mother figure
- Living far away from their moms or children
- Painful relationships with their mother or child
- Wishing their relationship with their mother was different
- Revisiting trauma from their mother or mother figure
It’s not just losing a mother to death or estrangement that can cause grief. There are many aspects of modern motherhood that can bring up grief, from birth trauma to lack of support postpartum to the emotional labor that many mothers take on without much help.
In addition to the grief that many moms feel on Mother’s Day, the holiday can bring up grief for children too. The relationships that many of us have with our mothers or mother figures is complicated, and not everyone has a relationship with their mother. Not all relationships with mothers are positive and supportive. Some people don’t have mothers and never have, and so they might feel left out of the day.
Some people feel that Mother’s Day is a cruel reminder of the relationship they didn’t get to have with their mother. Sometimes Mother’s Day is a day where they have to revisit trauma from their mother and cope with the aftermath. Even for people who are estranged from their mothers or mother figures, Mother’s Day can be an unwelcome holiday since it brings up painful memories. People often don’t understand the grief that goes into becoming estranged from such a close family member, so sometimes it can be hard to talk about with other people for fear of being judged.
If you’re feeling grief leading up to Mother’s Day, you’re not alone. Here are 5 suggestions to cope with Mother’s Day grief:
Find a way to honor your mother or child
If you’re missing your mother on Mother’s Day, the whole day can feel like a big neon sign pointing to your grief. Losing your mother or mother figure can make you feel like you’ve lost an important part of yourself. If it feels appropriate for you, try to find a way to honor your mother or mother figure on Mother’s Day. You can join in the holiday, and celebrate your mother, even if you’re feeling grief about it. Try watching her favorite shows or movies, reading her favorite books, eating her favorite meal, or making a donation to an organization that she cared about.
For folks who have lost a pregnancy or a child, Mother’s Day might feel incredibly cruel. Many parents question their identity after the loss of a child, or struggle to move into their new identity of grieving parent. This unnatural loss completely changes who you are, which can bring its own grief. You do not have to celebrate if you do not wish to, but if you feel moved to, it can be healing to talk about your child and to keep their memory alive.
Make a plan for Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day might be a day that you dread, but it is thankfully just one day. Do what you can to make a plan to distract yourself for the day. See if you can loop in a friend or another loved one for support to get through the day.
Try to treat yourself as much as you are able to, since it’s a difficult day. Having something to look forward to can take your mind off of the distress and the grief that you feel. Here are some ideas to try to occupy your time on Mother’s Day:
- Go to a museum
- See a movie
- Take a hike
- Get a massage
- Hang out in a library or bookstore
- Get out of town
- Go to a play or a concert
- Take a class or lesson
- Have a party
Be compassionate with yourself
When you’re grieving, it’s tempting to be critical of yourself and notice all the ways that you aren’t doing well. Try to tune those critical thoughts out, because they’re not true. Grief is hard. Coping, however you’re doing it, is hard. You’re doing what you can to survive, and that’s okay. Being mean to yourself is just going to make you feel worse, it’s not going to change anything. It’s okay to be upset on a painful day. Don’t beat yourself up about it.
Being kind to yourself also means taking good care of yourself while you’re dealing with grief. Make sure you’re getting enough to eat and drink, and sleep for at least 7 or 8 hours a night. Get some sun on your face if you can. Take your medicine and move your body. Try to talk to some people who care about you. Remember that you deserve to be taken care of.
Ignore the day
It doesn’t have to be Mother’s Day for you if you don’t want it to be, it can just be another Sunday in May. There’s nothing wrong with pretending that it’s just another day. Seeing reminders on social media can be a painful reminder if you’re trying to ignore Mother’s Day, so it might be a good day to logout of those apps and ignore them too.
Even if Mother’s Day is very painful for you, it’s just 24 hours. It will pass eventually, and then you won’t have to think about it again until next year.
Let your grief come out
It’s okay to feel the grief that comes up on Mother’s Day. If you need to have a cry or to scream or let it out, don’t hold yourself back. Grief feels uncomfortable, but sometimes letting yourself feel the grief, instead of pushing it away or distracting yourself from it, can actually help you feel better. Acknowledging that the grief is real and that it’s there is very powerful.
Try writing a letter to your mother or child, and say what you wish you could say in person, or making art to capture how you’re feeling at the moment. You don’t have to show anyone, just do it for you.
If you’re looking for more support as Mother’s Day approaches, talking with a grief counselor can help. At Grief Recovery Center in Houston, TX our clinicians are all grief experts who can help you wherever you are on your grief journey.