Mother's Day is typically a day filled with celebrating those we identify as our mother(s). For those who are grieving the loss of their mother or for those mothers who are grieving the loss of their child, Mother's Day can be a challenging day/holiday.
If you're in this position, whether for the first time or for another year, you may be wondering "How do I get through this day with my grief and the absence of my mother/child?" My hope for this blog is to provide you with a few different things to explore to begin answering that question.
To The Children Grieving Their Mother(s)
Two common obstacles I hear come up around Mother's Day for those who are grieving the loss of their mother(s) are: "How do I still recognize/acknowledge my mom?" and "How do I cope with seeing everyone else celebrating their moms?"
Let's start with coping. It's not uncommon for me to hear, "I wish I could just skip this day and not see everyone else's days with their moms!" I hear you! It's incredibly hard and while I can't remove these reminders for you, I can guide you in deciding and setting boundaries around what you give attention to. For example, if seeing others' posts acknowledging their mothers and how they're celebrating her is too triggering for you, can you set a boundary around social media for the day? Where/how else might you be able to channel that energy?
What boundaries would you like to set/benefit from setting for Mother's Day?
Now that you've filtered what you're giving attention to and choosing what to set aside for the day, let's talk about how you can still recognize/acknowledge your mom. I first want you to explore and answer this question...
"Does celebrating your mom on Mother's Day feel okay for you and/or fit with where you
are in your grief journey?"
***Please note, if it does not, THIS IS OKAY! It doesn't mean you love your mother any less. This is you recognizing and honoring where you are in your grief journey.
If your answer is yes, explore the following questions:
How do you want to celebrate her?
Carry on a tradition of your mom's?
Engage in the regular activities of a typical Mother's Day with a new twist/added elements to still incorporate your mom?
Start a whole new tradition?
Who would you like to be involved in the celebration?
You, yourself, and your mom?
You and one other close trusted supportive individual?
You and close family/friends?
A community celebration?
If your answer is no, explore the following questions:
How do you want to spend the day?
Engaging in an activity?
Providing yourself with distractions?
Having a day filled with self-care?
All of the above?
Who do you want to spend the day with?
You and yourself?
You and a spouse/partner/significant other?
You and close family members?
You and a close friend or two in your trusted support system?
You and a supportive community?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions; as long as they fit within your grief journey and what feels right for you, that's all that matters.
To The Mothers Grieving Their Child
One of the biggest Mother's Day obstacles I've guided clients through who are grieving the loss of their child is this question of, "Do I still celebrate/acknowledge the day?" This question stems from the identity loss or confusion around as to whether or not they're still considered a mother despite the absence of their child. The answer?
While the role may look very different, you will ALWAYS be a mother to your child. Now. Just because I validate that for my clients (and you), doesn't mean it removes the loss, doubt, or uncertainty around the fact that their/your role as a mother has changed. We need to explore HOW the was role has changed.
Here are a few of the questions my clients and I walk through when exploring this area. I invite you to do the same if it feels right for you.
***Trigger warning! Exploring these questions may be triggering to some. Please honor your grief journey and listen to what feels right.
How did you view and fill your role as a mother prior to your child's passing?
How do you view and fill your role as a mother currently? (Hint: it's OKAY if you think "what role?" or have uncertainty around how to answer this question)
How would you like to view your role and how might you continue to fill your role as a mother in the future?
Example: if you viewed and wish to continue viewing your role as a mother to be a teacher, in what ways can you be a teacher to others (adults or children)?
Example: if you viewed and wish to continue viewing your role as a mother to be a protector, in what ways can you be a protector to your child or others?
You may be asking, "What if I view my role differently than I had before?" That's okay! Let's talk about how and why the view of your role is different, what purpose that new view serves, and how it manifests.
For all of you who are grieving on Mother's Day
Honor your grief journey! Navigate this day in a way that feels right for you in terms of where you are in your grief journey, how you choose to connect and/or stay connected with your mother or child, and at a pace that fits for you.
Give yourself grace! Know that you're doing your best on a day that can trigger many different feelings.
Here's to living a better life as your best self.
Brittany Squillace, MA, LMFT