Handling Grief on Mother's Day
Updated: May 7, 2020
Navigating holiday grief on special days like Mother's day is one of the many new tasks we experience as a Griever. Where is the map for that territory? Nowhere really. Everyone just figures out the best way to do it over time. We get lots of practice.
Mother's Day is one of those days where we can feel out of place with people celebrating around us, along with some Hallmark expectation that we are all supposed to love our mothers, have our mothers and be a mother - or be a mother with a great relationship with our kids. What is true is some of us have lost our mothers, some of us are estranged from our mothers, some mothers are estranged from their children, some mothers may be grieving the child they lost. Some women have always wanted to be able to celebrate Mother's day, but are still waiting for a child, some are past that opportunity in their lives or never had the chance to know their mother at all.
At some point, we all get to deal with grief on Mother's Day.
Grief on Mother's Day can have a deeply heartbreaking feeling. Painful, almost physically, misunderstood by many of those around us and isolating because of it. Did you know cells of a baby live in the mother's bloodstream for many years? https://www.livescience.com/62930-why-mom-keeps-baby-cells.html We know we carry around half of her DNA. We are part of her physically, whether we want to be or not, there is a connection, perhaps forever on some level. Grieving our mother or child can also feel like a dull numbness depending upon what the relationship was, where we are at with the grief any given day or not really knowing how to feel but not feeling 'good'.
Grieving the connection between Mother and Child? Here are some suggestions for navigating this unmapped territory.
1. First, Honor your feelings. Be honest about what those feelings are, put names to them. It doesn't matter that no one understands- your emotional truth, is YOUR emotional truth. There isn't a wrong or right way to feel. You might feel nothing and people expect you to 'look like' you are grieving. Maybe you are grieving but you are having a good day remembering your child or mother. You don't have to put on a happy face if you are not, you don't have to look sad if you are not in that moment, you don't have to hide in isolation. If someone asks how you are doing, actually tell them with the REAL feeling words. 'I'm sad.', "I'm missing my Mom today.", "I wish I could talk to my Mom today, I feel lost without her", "I ache wishing I could cuddle my child.", "I miss getting gifts from my child.", "I feel heartbroken", "I feel angry my adult children don't contact me.", "I feel neglected.", "I feel pretty good today remembering my relationship with my (child or mother).", "I'm scared I'll never have a child." etc.
2. Develop a ritual to honor the loss. Light a candle, make a special recipe that reminds you of them, tell stories, look at photographs, wear a piece of jewelry, scarf, socks or hat or piece of something from them. Do an activity they liked to do, visit a place that reminds you of them. Get yourself flowers.
3. Write a note. This is for you, not to send. Even if the person has passed, writing a note or card is a symbolic exercise of communicating with your loved one or estranged one. Write something you wish you could say to them in person. (Don't ever actually send something that is venting - those words are for you, further damaging a relationship is not the goal here.)
4. Honor the space they left on this planet. Plant a flowering plant or tree, make a donation in their name to something they were passionate about or is connected to them. A living memorial is a way for their presence to continue to live on and contribute to the world.
5. Remember them outloud. Pour their favorite beverage and have a conversation with them. Read outloud past things they had written. Play some of their favorite music. Tell someone you trust and who is a good listener about your child or mom- a funny story, a touching one, any memory that comes up for you that you'd like to share, it doesn't have to be a good memory. Say their name.
6. Ask for what you need. People can't guess, you need to tell them. They actually will appreciate it. People feel helpless and often don't know what to do. They will probably be uncomfortable, but it's not your job to make them comfortable. It's your job to be honest and ask for what you need. It's natural to grieve and there is no timeline. Even with resolved grief, we all have moments of missing those we loved or wish we could love. If you need a hug, to be held, time alone, time to take a reflecting walk, need a listening heart with ears and no advice or comments while you share, then ask for exactly that! In this moment, you need to give yourself some mothering. Love and nurture YOU.
7. Don't apologize for not feeling the way someone else does, you are allowed to have your own needs and feelings and taking some time to honor those things. Everyone is watching you navigate your grief, because they also know, there is no map. By honoring yourself, you are showing others it will be okay to honor themselves and their needs when they get their turn at experiencing loss.
8. Reach out to others who've lost their mothers or children. They will appreciate that you remembered their loss. They may be able to share how they navigate these days. Or you may be able to share memories of your loved ones and what you miss with each other. Just don't judge each other's relationships. Each person's relationships are unique and individual to them. We don't have the same relationships with our moms or children- or anyone in our lives. We don't all feel the same way, leave room to respect each other's feelings. Be an open heart with ears and no judging, or advice, keep things confidential between you. There is no need to fix each other. There is nothing wrong with you. You are grieving. Grief is a normal and natural response to loss.
The point is not to skip over the emotions you are feeling if you are missing someone. Loss is universal, grief is universal. Getting a chance to express these things, honor ourselves and our loved ones is part of the path of Resolving Grief.
Would you like to heal your heart further from the grief around your mother-child relationship, or any other relationship? We can do just that with a Grief Recovery Program. The Online One-on-One Program I teach is now available with 7 sessions done over 4-7 weeks. Whether the grief is from a death, estranged relationship or a person you never got to meet this program is perfect for healing your hurting heart.
Contact me at 509-480-0945 or book a call back for a free initial consulation on https://calendly.com/kerryhagergrms
Wishing you Peace this Mother's Day,
Kerry Hager, Advanced Online Grief Recovery Specialist
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Teaching the tools to heal your heart from unresolved grief.