Coping with grief on Mother’s Day

Whether you’re missing your mum, or you had a more difficult relationship, Mother’s Day and the lead up to it can trigger lots of different emotions. It can also be hard to face if you're grieving for your child, or if you're coping with the death of someone who was like a mum to you. 

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. 

Why can Mother’s Day hurt so much when you’re grieving?

Mothers, or mother-like figures, often hold a special place in people’s hearts. They tend to have nurtured you, raised you and eventually supported you in your journey into the wider world. 

When they die, you may find that you miss all the safety, security and unconditional love they provided throughout your life. And, unlike their birthday or the anniversary of their death, this isn’t something that you can quietly deal with on your own and in your own way. 

Instead, the whole country can feel like they are joining together to celebrate and appreciate their mums. If you were close, this can leave you feeling isolated by the pain of her death. But if you didn’t know her, or if you had a relationship that was difficult or estranged, this might stir up feelings of regret or sadness. 

Similarly, parents who are grieving for their child may also feel isolated by the celebrations of maternal love. While there may be comfort in remembering the bond you created with your child, it can also be heartbreaking to have to face your reality without them by your side. 

Ways to cope with your grief around Mother’s Day 

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?

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.

Don’t be ashamed of normal emotions 

When it comes to grieving for a parent or child, 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 them

Grief can be very isolating, but it’s likely that other people around you are trying to cope with similar feelings too. Try talking about the person who has died with others, lighting a candle in their memory or doing something with a loved one that reminds you of them.

Focus on the time you spent with them

Bereavement 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 the person who has died may feel strange, but it can be a way of validating your emotions and feeling closer to them, even though they're not here 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 been bereaved, or you could consider joining a support group, such as our Online Bereavement Community or Grief Kind spaces, 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 they were alive. 

Take the day off from 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 is such an individual and personal experience. Only by listening to yourself will you find the right way for you. 

More advice

Online Bereavement Community

If you'd like to talk to others who are grieving this Mother's Day, our Online Community is available 24/7.

Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement at Sue Ryder

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.

Chris Ellis

Head of Family Support - Wheatfields Hospice

Christine Ellis

Chris worked as a social worker in the hospital team for Leeds City Council before joining Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice in 2004. She provides support to patients and their friends and families, both emotionally and practically.