The second Sunday of May was designated Mother’s Day in 1914 to celebrate moms and maternal figures in our lives. From sappy cards to stunning flowers, the many ways we honor mothers bring both smiles and tears. Those tears may not be happy ones, however. Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for someone grieving the loss of a mother. It can also be difficult for those who have lost a child. Feelings of loss are often intensified when surrounded by the happy festivities that accompany this holiday. Here are some ways to help you cope with grief on Mother’s Day while honoring the person you’ve lost.
Understanding Grief Itself
It would be easier if stages of grief were universal and could be checked off like a shopping list. Grief is a highly individualized experience. It is a natural process that eases with time and expression. It may occur immediately following a loss, or even months or years later. Many people don’t show outward signs of grief. You may feel sadness, shock, anger, numbness, or even relief. These feelings affect sleeping, eating, and your ability to maintain relationships. Start by acknowledging your loss, and remember there is not a right or wrong way to grieve. The American Psychological Society (APA) offers additional information about understanding grief here.
Mother’s Day Makes It Hurt More
Mother’s Day is challenging if you lost your mom yesterday or years ago. Moms have one of the most difficult jobs in history. They give us life and help us sustain it. They guide us, love us, and teach us to love the next generation. Because your mother is the first thing you ever see, it can seem impossible to fathom how to continue when she is gone. Just when you find yourself moving forward, Mother’s Day rolls around again. Advertisements full of suggestions on how to make your mom feel super special end up making you super sad. So do your best to ignore the hype, and focus on ways to commemorate the life she led.
Celebrating Helps The Grief Process
On Mother’s Day, take the opportunity to honor the life of a mom who has passed. It will help you maintain the connection you shared. It will solidify memories of your loved one and even introduce her memory to those who did not know her during life. Whether you are celebrating your own mother’s memory or those of a family member or friend, remember that grief is normal. Recognizing your loss on Mother’s Day can be helpful for everyone by showing that no one is grieving alone.
How To Honor a Mom That is Gone
Take care of yourself first. Don’t overcommit yourself to brunches and parties on Mother’s Day. It is perfectly okay to just exist. Know your limits, and surround yourself with as little or as many people as you can handle. Sleep in if you want. If your loss is recent, you may want to turn off your phone to avoid outpourings of sympathy. Make sure your physical and emotional wellbeing are a priority before taking on the rest of the world on Mother’s Day. This is something your mom would have wanted for you.
Spend time with those who loved her. It may be your own family, or it may be her lifelong best friend. Share your memories of her, and ask questions of others to learn things about your mom that you may not have known. These small details weave color into the fabric of her memory to complete the beautiful picture of who she was.
Visit her resting place. Place flowers on your mom’s grave on Mother’s Day, even if visiting her is part of your normal routine. You can go alone and talk to her there. You can bring loved ones and share a moment of peace for the life that was. The physical act of going to see her gravesite is a tangible way to show yourself that healing can continue.
Get her a greeting card. Greeting cards have a way of getting right to the heart of what you want to say, even if you didn’t know you wanted to say it. Whether it is a heartfelt expression of love or a silly cartoon to make you laugh, share one that you know your mom would have loved with your family and friends. If you are a mom yourself, have your children make cards for their grandmother, too. These greeting cards can become keepsakes for you to cherish for years to come.
Look at those old photos. Photo albums are what the world used before the genesis of social media. Get those albums out of the box in the basement. Remind yourself of celebrations past, and show your family and friends her life in pictures. Don’t forget to include those of her as a child. Holding a photo of your mom echoes holding her in your heart.
Use her recipes or make her favorite meal. Mother’s Day is a terrific opportunity to break out mom’s secret lasagna recipe and make it for the family. If pizza delivery was more her style, kick up your heels and enjoy a slice. Maybe you had a Sunday tradition of ice cream at sunset, so head to your local diner and get a scoop for Mom. These familiar smells and tastes will bring back many memories of her.
Get philanthropic. If your mom had a favorite charity or cause, make a donation in her honor for Mother’s Day, and perhaps use social media to raise additional funds for a cause that was close to her heart. Volunteer for an organization associated with your mom and her memory. Paying it forward is a great way to maintain the legacy of your mom.
Bring It Back to Basics
Grief is unpleasant. It is real. It is normal. Remember that Mother’s Day is not mandatory. If your grief is fresh and overwhelming, it is okay to treat it like any other day. If you choose to celebrate, you can ask for help. A strong support network eases your burden. It will keep the memory of your mom alive with shared experiences and a common goal: celebrating the woman who was your mom.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Grief: Coping with the loss of your loved one. Available at https://www.apa.org/topics/grief. Retrieved 05/06/2021.
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. (March 4, 2020). Grieving After Loss. Available at https://www.nhpco.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/ThereisnoWrongorRightWaytoGrieveAftera_Loss.pdf. Retrieved 05/06/2021.