Mother’s Day Your Way
Maybe you’ve received one of these messages recently, from flower or card companies trying to sensitively acknowledge – while holding onto your business, of course – that Mother’s Day isn’t an occasion everyone wants to celebrate or even think about.
Writing about what Mother’s Day might feel like for bereaved people is like trying to write a guide for “how to grieve”. That is to say, there’s no one clear answer that fits everyone.
Mother’s Day might be hard for you if you’ve lost your mum, if you’ve lost a child, if you’re widowed and supporting grieving children, or if you’re missing another mum-like figure in your life. It’s natural in these circumstances to feel all sorts of emotions in the approach to any of these ‘milestone days’ that everybody else seems to be celebrating: irritation, resentment, sadness, or remorse.
We weren’t like that…
If your relationship with your mum wasn’t always good, you might even be feeling a sense of relief that you no longer have to engage in these same rituals – and then you may feel guilt or shame about that.
Mother’s Day can be especially triggering because the messaging around it often somewhat fetishes the mother-child relationship. Certainly, that particular bond is a unique and special one for many, but it’s often held to impossible standards and what’s more is still commonly portrayed in the media in a very singular way. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of space or acknowledgement, for example, for adoptive mothers, same sex parent partnerships, or mums who have lost their babies but are still, very much, mothers.
Getting through it
If you’re feeling excluded for any reason from Mother’s Day this year – if you feel you might like to ‘opt out’ – here are a few ideas on how to cope:
- Try to remember it is only a day. Often in grief, these milestone events – as with Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries – can feel worse in the build-up than on the day itself. Nevertheless, it is sometimes worth a little planning around how you will spend the day – but leave some flexibility too, so you can go with how you’re feeling. Take it an hour at a time. By Monday, the shelves will be cleared and the marketing machine will have miraculously moved on to Easter; and you will have got through.
- Switch off. Maybe it’s okay for the few days preceding Mother’s Day to avoid the ad breaks, the card shops, the social media posts. Remember social media often presents “the best side” of people’s lives – the edited highlights – so if you’re grieving you may feel it’s even more hurtful to see others’ seemingly perfect relationships laid out as a technicolour reminder of what you’re missing. It’s okay not to do that to yourself.
- Reach out. On the other hand, some people find connecting via social media a comfort at times like this. You might like to post about your loved one, use the day to share some special memories or thoughts about them and invite others to comment. Remember especially that you aren’t alone – while your loss is of course unique to you, others are grieving at this time and might appreciate you reaching out to them with a kind word or a virtual hug. When we help someone else, we very often feel a little bit better ourselves.
- Mark the day if you want to – your way. Aside from choosing to engage or disengage with the online world, there are other ways in which you might decide to ‘do’ Mother’s Day this year. Perhaps you could visit a special place that reminds you of your lost loved one and helps you feel close to them. Some people like to buy a card just as they would if their mum were still alive, and write a few thoughts in it for them, or write a letter. Candles, flowers and a special meal are still things you might enjoy in their memory.
Follow your lead
Above all, treat yourself kindly and remind yourself there is no right or wrong Mother’s Day. Whether you ‘opt out and spend the day under the duvet with the WiFi switched firmly off, or fill the house with flowers and shout from the rooftops about your missed loved one, take care of yourself and spend this Sunday in the way that’s best for you.