How to cope with grief on Mother's Day
Parents are not meant to outlive their children. Unfortunately, that’s one of life’s unwritten rules which most of us are likely to experience at some point. When that does happen, Mother’s Day can be a constant reminder of your loss.
This guide will help you to understand and overcome the different emotions you may experience at this time of year and will provide useful tips for coping with grief on Mother's Day.
Different types of grief on Mother's Day
Mothering Sunday is a difficult day not just for children but for everyone else who is grieving the loss of their mother. It’s a particularly distressing time for women grieving motherhood and for some immediate family members such as grandmothers or aunts. Feeling upset and emotional is inevitable but it’s also part of the healing process. Going through these emotions helps you to overcome them and move forward.
Children grieving the loss of their mother
Confusing, traumatic, painful and healing are some of the words that can be used to describe children’s feelings on Mother’s Day. You need to remember that children have their own way of expressing grief and sometimes they don’t express it at all. Respect that but look out for behavioural changes which may indicate that they struggle to cope.
There is no right or wrong way to commemorate Mother’s Day without the mother of your child or children. The build up to it as well as the day itself are likely to be difficult but these suggestions may inspire you to do something different this year:
Plan the day together
Ask your children what they want to do and how they want to spend the day. Have age-appropriate conversations about their feelings on this day and share yours too. That can clear out any misunderstandings and give you the opportunity to plan the day together.
Encourage their creativity
Perhaps you can do something creative this year? Make a collage of the photographs from family holidays, create a special card for her or do something else they suggest. The purpose of spending the day that way is to have a break from grief and to do something positive to commemorate it.
Don’t forget to talk to their teachers regarding Mother’s Day celebrations at school. Consider your children’s feelings and make a decision based on their personality and the circumstances. Ask them if they want to join in the school celebrations or if they prefer to do something else instead. Make sure that you have their teacher’s permission if you decide to do something that requires a day off school.
Please refer to our guide on coping with the loss of a parent.
Mothers grieving the loss of a child
The loss of a child, including pregnancy loss, is a traumatic experience which robs women of the opportunity to look after their child. It’s a struggle for many which may turn Mother’s Day into a painful reminder of their lost dream. Remember that this is your day and you decide how to spend it.
Here are a couple of suggestions that highlight the importance of self-care on a day like this:
- Pamper yourself
Book a day at a swanky spa and indulge in as many treatments and massages as possible. But if you are not one for spa days, you can achieve the same effect at home. Have a relaxing bath, try some meditation and breathing exercises, or indulge in anything else that soothes your body and soul and makes you feel good about yourself.
- Spend a weekend away
If you prefer to be on your own, you can spend the weekend away. Book a cottage in a remote location near the sea or up in the mountains where you can switch off and reconnect with mother nature. Go for hikes or walks by the water, take a journal and do some writing or pack your art supplies and turn your emotions into beautiful artwork.
Coping with grief on Mother's Day
Be prepared for an emotional day, particularly if it’s your first Mother’s Day without her. Your circumstances and feelings are likely to set your mood and influence the day but that’s okay. Grief is an individual reaction and a process which only you know how to approach.
Here are some suggestions on how to cope with grief on Mother’s Day:
Avoid grief triggers
There are certain things and activities that can trigger a grief episode if you are not prepared for them. Seeing fathers helping their children to choose flowers and gifts for their mothers can be one of them.
Unfortunately you can’t protect yourself from everything that’s likely to trigger grief. Give yourself permission to grieve and be prepared to deal with people, things or events that provoke unexpected feelings and random emotions.
Do something in her honour
If this year marks a special anniversary or you feel like you ought to do something different, why not consider doing a charity event in her honour? There are many ways to help worthy causes either by donating your time or doing something to raise funds. You can even organise your own event and turn it into tradition for years to come.
It could even be a DIY project at home, such as building the pond she always wanted or turning part of the garden into her corner.
Avoid social media
This is a good day for a social media detox. Log out of your accounts and don’t be tempted to check your feed because it’s likely to feature pictures and updates from Mother’s Day celebrations and trigger a fresh wave of grief. If your children are on social media, it’s probably a good idea to suggest they log out for the day too.
You don’t have to do anything
If you feel like closing the door on the rest of the world for a day, that’s fine too. It gives you the opportunity to spend some time with yourself. Use the day to reflect on your loss and journey so far. Read, write, clean the house, tidy the garden, listen to some music, watch a movie etc.
A Mother’s Day without a mother is an upsetting experience. That one day and the lead up to it are constant reminders of your loss and the emptiness inside which are not likely to fade away in a hurry. Although it’s difficult to see it that way, the experience gives you strength and enables you to develop coping mechanisms for next year. Try to remember that.
We offer grief help and support through the National Bereavement Service's (NBS) webchat. It is a free online service which connects you to a trained advisor.
NBS has a wide network of contacts within organisations providing support to bereaved people. They will explain your choices and help you decided what would be most helpful for you and how to make contact with them.
The service is available Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm and you can reach NBS by clicking on the chat box at the bottom of this page.
Contributed by Mark Welkin
Mark Welkin is the author of three grief books and a journalist who has worked for various media outlets in Europe and Asia. He lost his long-term partner in 2014 and a few months later, Mark turned to a grief counsellor for help. The results inspired him to share his experience and help other bereaved people to resume life after the loss of their loved ones.