For anyone without a mum, Mothering Sunday is one of the toughest days of the year. And over the last 12 months – because of the pandemic – many, many more of us have lost our mothers. But is there anything that can ease the pain, even if only slightly?
“Mother’s Day can be a particularly difficult time,” says Andy Langford, clinical director at Cruse Bereavement Care (cruse.org.uk). “It’s seen by many as a day to celebrate and spend time with loved ones, but it can be a distressing reminder of a death, and can trigger emotions of grief and sadness.
“But there are a number of things you can do on Mother’s Day and the lead-up to it, that you might find helpful if you’re grieving, such as finding your own special way to mark your mum’s life. It’s important to do what feels right for you, as everyone grieves differently,” he adds.
“Unfortunately, due to the tragic loss of life during the pandemic, there are likely to be more people than usual who’ve experienced an unexpected bereavement and are facing a tough Mother’s Day this year,” agrees Bianca Neumann, head of bereavement at Sue Ryder (sueryder.org).
“Many people have told me how they avoid shops around special occasions like Mother’s Day, because they don’t want to see all the aisles filled with cards, chocolates and gifts. For those who’ve lost a parent, Mother’s Day might bring up difficult emotions.”
Here, Langford and Neumann suggest ways people who’ve lost their mum can make Mother’s Day a little easier…
1. Put yourself firstLangford recommends that before Mothering Sunday, people who’ve lost their mums should think about how they want to spend the day. “You might like to be on your own, or spend time speaking to friends and family over the phone or online. You might find you’re emotional on the day, so make plans that take this into account.”
Neumann adds: “Be kind, and don’t place yourself under too much pressure to be OK. Emotions come and go 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.”
2. Don’t be ashamed of normal emotions
When it comes to losing a parent, feelings of jealousy, envy, anger and sadness are very common, says Neumann, who stresses that while many bereaved people have such feelings, not everyone talks about them. “These feelings often get pushed aside, and the remaining feeling is that of guilt or shame, as an inner voice, labels these feelings as ‘bad’ when they’re actually normal,” she says.
3. You can still send a card or flowersYou might like to write a Mother’s Day card explaining how you’re feeling, or to help you feel part of things. Or mark the day with flowers in memory of your mum, suggests Langford. You could take the card and flowers to your mum’s grave or her special place, or keep them at home, so you can see them and think of her.
4. Write a letterYou could write a letter to your mum telling her how much you miss her. “Sometimes getting our feelings out on paper can help us to process the complex emotions we’re feeling,” explains Neumann. “Writing a letter to your mum may feel strange, but it’s a way of validating your emotions and [may help you to] feel closer to her, even though she’s not there with you.”
5. Remember the happy times
Loss can often spark feelings of regret, says Neumann, who points out: “Perhaps you feel you could have spent more time with your mother. Try instead, to focus on the time you did have, and how special that was for both you and your mum.”
Langford says Mother’s Day could be a good time to look through photos of your mum too, and advises: “Remember the happy times you spent together. You might like to do this on your own, or over the phone or online with other family members, who can share memories of your mum.”
6. Talk about your mumWhether it’s over old photos or not, it can be cathartic to talk about your mum with other people, particularly those who knew her and can reminisce, “Grief can feel very isolating, but it’s likely other people around you are feeling the loss of your mum too,” says Neumann. “Talk about your mum with others, or do something with a loved one that reminds you of her.”
7. Try ignoring the day completely
If you’re struggling with the thought of Mother’s Day, you could ignore the day completely, suggests Neumann. “Take the day off social media and do things that make you happy – maybe that’s baking, watching a Netflix show, going on a walk or simply having a lazy day,” she suggests.
Langford adds: “Trying to take your mind off a difficult situation can be fine in the short term, as long as you have somewhere to turn to when you need to talk.”
8. Get supportIf you’re struggling with Mother’s Day, don’t be afraid to ask for help, agree Langford and Neumann. “When you’re grieving, you may find comfort in talking to others in a similar position,” says Neumann. “This could be a friend who’s also lost a parent, or you could consider joining a support group, such as Sue Ryder’s Online Bereavement Community (community.sueryder.org), where you’ll find many other people are experiencing the exact same feelings as you.” There’s also the Cruse helpline on 0808 808 1677.