Mother’s Day can be a sad day for a child without a mother or a mother without a child, but it can also be filled with happy memories and reaching out to others.
Sarah stares at her mother’s picture sitting on her bookcase and sobs. She doesn’t know how she will get through this first Mother’s Day without her. Janet has the opposite problem. Her son was killed in a tragic accident and this will be the first Mother’s Day she won’t have a living child.
Both women feel isolated and sad and surrounded by Mother’s Day and these experiences aren't isolated. Many childless mothers and motherless children find Mother's Day to be a painful and emotionally difficult holiday.
Mother's Day Can be Sad and Happy
Mother’s Day can be a sad day for a child to be without a mother or for a mother to be without a child. Mothers talk excitedly about their plans with their children and show off mother’s day cards and gifts. Children make cards and gifts and make plans to take their mothers out to dinner.
Television, radio, and magazine advertisements ceaselessly promote Mother’s Day. But Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a traumatic day spent in solitary grieving. It can be filled with memories that bless and burn and heal. It can be filled with supportive family and friends. It can also be day of reaching out to others. Both Sarah and Janet have developed strategies to help them survive and even enjoy Mother's Day.
Turn Memories into Mementos
Working with photos, letters, and other memorabilia makes the absent person feel closer and eases the ache of missing them. Writing personal recollections of the person is therapeutic and a good legacy for family members. A memory book can be put on line, on a CD, or in a scrap book.
Wearing something that belonged to that special person like a ring, a favorite sweater, earrings, a tie or scarf, can provide a sense of continuity and comfort. Sarah has decided to wear her mother's favorite sweater on Mother's Day.
Enjoy Mother Earth and Mother Nature
Doing something for the Earth as simple as picking up trash in the park or some other positive Mother’s Day activity that helps the earth is healing. Enjoying Mother Nature on Mother’s Day with physical exercise like biking, swimming, canoeing, or just taking a walk will help keep the day in proportion. Janet’s son liked to cycle, so taking a bicycle ride on Mother’s Day morning seemed a fitting tribute to Janet and eased her into the rest of the day.
Nurture Yourself by Doing Activities You Enjoy
Reading is one of Sarah’s favorite activities and reading in a warm tub sends her to stratospheric heights. She has decided to read her favorite novel for two hours in the tub on Mother’s Day evening. Doing a favorite activity on a Mother’s Day is a stress reliever.
A long meditation walk or private time and then a time with family or friends can be good therapy, especially on the first Mother’s Day after a loss. Sarah plans to take a walk sometime on Mother’s Day morning before she goes out to brunch with friends.
Plant a Living Memorial and Have a Memorial Celebration
Sarah chose a corner of her garden and planted rows of her mother’s favorite Marigolds. She also inherited her mother’s house plants and carefully tends them. Janet planted a spruce tree in her backyard in her son’s memory. It had been their Christmas tree the Christmas before he was killed. Planting a tree, shrub, flowers, is a living memorial and the act of tending them is as therapeutic as writing about them.
Take flowers, candy, or presents to someone your loved one knew and loved. Have a memorial conversation and lunch with them and celebrate your loved one’s life and the precious memories left behind. Laugh often about the humorous events. Janet had lunch with her son’s best friend and his mother. They laughed heartily about the time her son pitched six innings and as soon as the coach relieved him he had to race to the Port-a-Pottie for some relief of his own. It’s a memory that burns, but the laughter helps ease the pain.
Visit Someone Who Needs You
On Mother's Day, visit someone who needs a foster daughter or a son. Nursing homes always need volunteer visitors, especially on special days. Shut-ins from church welcome caring visitors. Sarah is going to visit an elderly lady from her synagogue on Mother’s Day afternoon.
There are many children who need a caring adult in their lives.. Volunteer at a local school or day care center. Janet signed up to conduct the story hour at the local library one day a month. She feels that is a loving memorial to her son who loved to read.
Lean on and Use Faith in a Higher Power
Sarah went to her synagogue the day before Mother’s Day and Janet is going to Church on Mother’s Day. They both say that spending totally on your own resources can be draining and depressing and they both stress that grief on Mother's Day or any other day doesn't completely fade, but actively managing Mother's Day
Sarah and Janet suggest taking one day at a time, especially Mother's Day. It is perfectly normal to slip and slide emotionally on special days. Be kind to yourself when you lapse, pick yourself up and move ahead with hope in your heart. They both emphasize that there is no magic way to make Mother's Day the way it used to be, but taking charge of the day instead of it taking charge of you is a step toward healing. And, they both agree that eventually acceptance and even a glimmer of joy comes as surely as Mother's Day does every year.
Sharon W. Betters, Treasures in Darkness: A Grieving Mother Shares her Heart, P & R Publishing, 2005.