Like many holidays, Mother’s Day can be a difficult day when you are grieving. And in my experience it changes with each passing year after a loss. Be ready for your feelings, be kind to yourself, and be sure to practice self-care any way you need.
It has been more than 10 years since my mother died, and we were estranged for over a year when she passed away. To say my grief process has been long and complicated would be an understatement. I was only 17 when she died, and in the years since I’ve moved through grief in various ways and become a mother myself.
The most difficult part of grief for me has been when it creeps in unexpectedly. A complicated, often taboo subject, it is difficult to navigate alone. I have found that having a plan has helped me manage my feelings and get through days that I can expect to be more difficult, like Mother’s Day.
The first year after my mother died, I didn’t realize that grief would come in waves and sneak up on me. I didn’t plan for Mother’s Day, and I was caught off guard when I found myself in heavy mourning all over again on the day. I learned that day through lots of tears to not let that happen again.
By the fifth year, I was ready. I created a routine. I was prepared with simple, healthy food, a cleared schedule, a book to journal in and another to read, and a candle to light as a way to remember her. But I was surprised again. Pleasantly surprised, to not be overwhelmed by tidal waves of grief. The day came and went. That's when I knew that I was finally through it. Not that I will never experience sadness when I think of my mom, but that I can think of her and not be swallowed up by the sadness.
Having a ritual gives you space to feel your feelings, time, and grace. If it turns out you don’t need it that is ok, but it is better to be prepared than surprised by your feelings.
Things to try in your ritual:
It doesn’t matter if its just a few notes in an old notebook, or you keep a beautiful and perfectly decorated bullet journal. Writing down feelings is a wonderful way of letting them out. Write down a favorite memory. Write a letter to your mom. Write a letter to your past or future self. Give yourself space and ink to let it out.
Reading whether for pleasure or processing grief is a wonderful activity to bring yourself some peace when you are grieving. If you are looking for books to help you with the loss of your mother, I recommend:
- Letters from Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman
- Brene Brown, honestly any of her work
- If you had a complicated relationship with your mother, you might also enjoy Gabor Mate’s work, his book In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, in particular helped me gain perspective on my mom’s life and struggles with addiction
Watch a Movie
Maybe something comforting and cheerful from your childhood. Maybe something sad that feels good to ugly-cry to. For me, my comfort movie is My Neighbor Totoro, and I love to get comfy with a snack and relax with this movie.
Eat a favorite food
During hard times for me that's something healthy but easy, like a veggie sub. If I’m feeling more sentimental, I make a seafood chowder, which is a food that reminds me of happy times with my mom.
Make a playlist
Maybe its cheerful to help you keep your spirits up and distracted. Maybe it is sad, if you need to sink into your feelings.
Whatever your ritual, prepare it ahead of time and make it personal to you. Light a candle, create something, talk about it. Take time to acknowledge the person you are grieving. Say their name.
Motherhood & Moving Forward
When I became a mom myself, my experience of Mother’s Day changed again, but I still dread the day. As wonderful as it is to enjoy celebrating with my own young family, I’m not sure the day will ever come without a sting. It is a reminder of what is missing in my life. But I try to focus on the positive; acknowledge my sadness and move forward. Hugging my girls tight and wishing my own mother had had the chance to meet them.
When you are grieving on Mother’s Day, feelings of love and loss become messy and tangled and it can be hard to tell one from the other. The key is to acknowledge all your feelings but not let them take over completely.
Wishing all of those who are grieving this Mother’s Day joy and peace. Supporting each other during times of grief is so important.
What is a ritual you use to help with your grief? What do you miss most about the person you are grieving? Tell us in the comments down below.
About the Author
Caitlin lives in Alberta with her husband, 2 little girls, and too many animals cause she is a sucker for a rescue. When she's not chasing kids and changing fluff bums she spends her time crocheting, gardening, and binging true crime docs.