In this blog, Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement, and Christine Ellis, Head of Family Support at Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice, share their expert advice to help you face the day and cope with your grief in a way that’s right for you.
If you’re coping with the death of a parent, Mother’s Day might bring up difficult emotions for you to deal with. While it is traditionally viewed as an opportunity to thank your mum, treat her and let her know how much you appreciate her – this is harder if you are having to face Mother’s Day without your mum by your side.
And unfortunately, due to the tragic loss of life throughout the coronavirus pandemic over the past two years, there are likely to be more people than usual who have experienced an unexpected bereavement and are missing their mum this year, or are having to cope with their first Mother’s Day without their mum.
Why can Mother’s Day hurt so much when your mum has died?
Mothers often hold a special place in people’s hearts. They are the ones who have given birth to you, and they tend to have nurtured you, raised you and eventually supported you in your journey into the wider world.
When they die, you not only lose them but all the safety, security and unconditional love that has been present throughout your life. And, unlike your mum’s birthday or the anniversary of her death, this isn’t something that you can quietly deal with on your own and in your own way.
Instead, the whole country seems to be joining in together to celebrate and express their joy and happiness in being able to say thank you to their mums for being there for them. If you were close with your mum, this can leave you feeling isolated by the pain of losing her. But if you didn’t know your mum, or had a relationship that wasn’t comfortable or easy, this might stir up feelings of regret or sadness.
As the day approaches, you may worry as you wonder how to face it… should you ignore it? Should you feel sad or filled with regret? Or should you find a way to acknowledge or celebrate it?
“For those of us whose mums have died, we are often at a loss as to how to deal with Mother’s Day.”
It’s quite possible that how you approach the day now may change over the years, or vary depending on your circumstances.
Remember that what’s right for one person might not be the same for another, and that’s why it’s important to do what feels right for you.
Ways to cope with your grief around Mother’s Day
If you’re finding the thought of Mother’s Day difficult, here are some things to remember or do to help you get through.
Don’t be ashamed of normal emotions
When it comes to losing a parent, feelings of jealousy, envy, anger as well as sadness are very common – but not everyone talks about them. Instead, you may find yourself experiencing guilt or shame as these feelings are pushed aside. It’s important to recognise that they are normal, even if your inner voice is labelling them as ‘bad’.
Talk about your mum
Grief can be very isolating, but it’s likely that other people around you are feeling the loss of your mum too. Try talking about your mum with others, lighting a candle in her memory or doing something with a loved one that reminds you of her.
Focus on the time you spent with your mum
Loss can often bring up feelings of regret, such as wishing you had spent more time together. If you’re experiencing similar thoughts, try instead to focus on the time you did have and how special that was for you both.
Write a letter
Sometimes getting our feelings out on paper can help us to process the complex emotions we are feeling. Writing a letter to your mum may feel strange, but it can be a way of validating your emotions and feeling closer to her, even though she is not there with you.
Find a support group
When you are grieving, you may find comfort in talking to others in a similar position. This could be a friend who has also lost a parent, or you could consider joining a support group, such as Sue Ryder’s Online Bereavement Community, where you’ll find others who are experiencing similar feelings to you.
Be kind to yourself
Don’t place yourself under too much pressure to be ‘OK’. Emotions come and go, and, like waves, they can wash over us and seem overwhelming. Allow yourself to feel and experience your grief, and know that in time, the waves will eventually recede.
Ignore the day completely
If you are struggling with the thought of Mother’s Day, you could ignore the day completely. It doesn’t have to carry on being a special day for you; it might have been enough that you celebrated while your mum was alive.
Take the day off social media and do things that help you to feel happy – whether that’s baking, watching a Netflix show, going on a walk or simply having a lazy day.
Listen to your heart
Whatever your situation and however you feel, make sure you listen to your own heart and spend the day according to what feels right for you. Grief and loss is such an individual and personal experience that only by listening to yourself will you find the right way for you.
- Read Bianca’s comments in The Guardian about people being offered the choice to opt out of marketing materials in the run-up to Mother’s Day.
- Read Bianca’s advice in The Irish News article ‘Eight ways to cope with Mother’s Day when you’ve lost your mum’.
Online Bereavement Community
If you would like to talk to others who have lost their mums this Mother’s Day, you can reach out on our Online Community.
Head of Bereavement – Bianca Neumann
Bianca is a healthcare professional and experienced psychologist and hypnotherapist, with a demonstrated history of working in the hospice, hospital and healthcare industry.