Helpful Five Step Strategy to Enjoy Mother’s Day After Losing Your Mom
Melissa Reilly, Psy.D.
Helpful Five-Step Strategy to Enjoy Mother's Day After Losing Your Mom
Mother's Day after losing your mom can be challenging. For many, it is a day filled with grief, sadness, and isolation. After all, on Mother's Day, we are bombarded with reminders of what we don't have, a loving and supportive mother in our life. It's a day where we celebrate and honor our mothers, but how do we celebrate what we don't have?
Mother's Day has been a difficult day for me throughout most of my life. When I was a child, my mother did her best to pretend she was happy. My older sister, her firstborn child, died the week of Mothers Day in 1977. So each year, that "holiday" marked the anniversary of one of the worst days of our lives. Understandably, there was always an unspoken sadness and tension surrounding Mother's Day.
What is a motherless Mother's Day like?
I was 25 when my mother died, and each year I found myself missing my mom on Mother's Day. It became a day I chose to avoid and ignore. I would send the obligatory cards and make the calls to the women in my life who were mothers, but I could largely ignore the entire day.
And then I became a mom. I thought Mother's Day would be this fantastic Day I could finally celebrate and enjoy. Well, I was wrong! Simply becoming a mother did not erase the decades of pain and disappointment. And now, I finally understood how difficult it was for my mother to "pretend" happiness each year.
Being motherless is difficult, but it becomes even more so if you are a mom without a mom.
I know I am not alone and that many of you also struggle with Mother's Day after losing your mom! I want you to know that it’s ok if Mother's Day isn't the joyous occasion society tells us it should be. It is a difficult day for many women who have lost their mothers. I've found a few articles and blog posts about surviving mother's day, what to do if you are grieving mom on Mother's Day, and even how to get through Mother's Day. But there is almost nothing available specifically for moms who have lost their mother.
Most of us recognize how difficult it is to be a parent nowadays. But the experience of mothering is different for moms without a mom. For example, a motherless mom's life often includes grief and the need to find support and guidance from people outside her family. Even when we have loving and supportive people in our life, it isn’t the same as having a mother. To learn more about the unique circumstances moms without a mom face check out my article HERE. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of resources available addressing our unique circumstances.
Yet, being a mom without a mom is more common than most people realize, even though we don't talk about it. Unfortunately, there aren't statistics indicating the number of motherless moms with children under 18. However, according to the Pew Research Center, as of 2017, over 4 million children were being raised in motherless households. In 1968 this number was 1 million, and in 1997 there were 3 million children raised in motherless homes. So we can extrapolate from the Pew data (which doesn't even include those of us who lost our mother in adulthood) that millions of us are a mom without a mom.
Are you grieving on Mother's Day after losing your Mom?
More than any other day, Mother's Day triggers the painful aspects of mourning for many of us. In her book Motherless Mothers, Hope Edelman states, "Becoming a mother can give a motherless daughter access to a more enhanced, … phase of mourning for her mother, one that may initially be painful but eventually leads her to a more mature and peaceful acceptance of both her loss and herself." The feelings of mourning can be especially strong on Mother's Day.
Therefore, it is important to have a strategy that helps you experience both the difficult emotions related to your mom's loss while still enjoying Mother's Day with your children. Use the following five-step process to enjoy Mother's day even as you experience the sadness over the loss of your mom. By following these five simple steps I was able to create the Mother's Day I always wanted. I am confident that you will also.
Easy Five-Step Strategy for Enjoying Mother's Day after losing your mom
Step 1:Let yourself grieve on Mother's Day after losing your mom.
Permit yourself to feel sad, disappointed, lonely, whatever emotions come up for you. These emotions are appropriate and completely normal when they occur on Mother's Day after losing your Mom. The reality that you don't have your mother with whom to share the day IS sad. I encourage you to freely express your feelings with your family, including your children. You don't need to pretend. You can explain how sadness and joy both are part of the day. For example, "I'm feeling a bit sad right now as I think about my mom who isn't here. But I am also happy to be your mom today on Mother's Day."
Step 2: Engage in a ritual that honors your mom.
Create a space specifically designed to honor or memorialize your mother. For example, here is several mother's day memorial ideas: you can write a letter, plant a flower, light a candle, release a balloon, go for a walk and have a prayerful conversation, listen to a favorite song or poem, etc. You can enjoy these activities by yourself or include members of your family if that is comforting.
Step 3: Redirect your attention to the present.
Remind yourself that you have set aside time to honor the thoughts, memories, and emotions associated with your mother. When thoughts, memories, or uncomfortable feelings pop up throughout the day, give yourself permission to acknowledge them briefly and redirect your attention to what you are experiencing. Be patient with yourself, this step takes practice, but the more times you do it, the easier it becomes. I know this step can be difficult. So if you would like additional strategies for redirecting your attention, I invite you to check out the Enjoy Being a Mom Again Quick Guide for free by clicking HERE.
Step 4: Celebrate yourself as a mother.
After all, it is Mother's Day, and you are a mother. Unapologetically recognize your value and importance as a mom. So often, we feel disappointed when others don't see us. Therefore, I invite you to take ownership of your Mother's Day and make it all about seeing yourself as an amazing mom. If your kids are young, spend some time just playing and having fun. If you find time alone to be enjoyable then set up a specific part of the day where you have mom-only time. Be as creative as you'd like to be. After all, again, this is your day!
Step 5:Create a Mother's Day tradition that is uniquely yours.
The new routine will give you something to look forward to each year that is entirely independent of the relationship you had with your mother. There is no right or wrong here. Be as creative as you'd like. And over time, you will find that Mother’s Day is a day that you can enjoy as well.
Are you ready for a new way to enjoy Mother's Day and every day?
Mother's Day after losing your mom can be difficult, so please be patient with yourself and understand what you feel is valid. I hope the Five-Step Strategy helps you find peace and joy on your Mother's Day as it has for me!
It is normal to experience sadness and grief for a mother that isn't in your life. Whether it's Mother's Day or any other day of the year, missing mom is normal. It is typical for thoughts and memories to be triggered spontaneously. Sometimes these thoughts and memories are pleasant, and we welcome them. Other times they can create sadness, pain, or even anger. All moms separated from their mothers by death, estrangement, or physical distance experience this. If not having your mother around is distracting you from staying present with your kids, and you no longer want your past to negatively impact your present (and future) relationship with your children then click HERE to Grab the Enjoy Being a Mom Again Quick Guide and start enjoying those memorable moments again.
If you find this Mother's Day particularly difficult and would like additional individual support, I invite you to schedule a complimentary coaching call (no sales pitch, I promise). I can offer support and assist you in implementing the Five-Step Strategy. Click HERE to schedule your coaching call.
Melissa Reilly, Psy.D.
I am a mom of two boys, clinical psychologist and parent coach who is passionate about helping moms separated from their mother by physical distance, estrangement, or death, move from feelings of insecurity, isolation and overwhelm to a place of resilience. I a honored to walk with you on your journey to becoming the Mom you've always wanted to be!