Coping with grief on Mother’s Day

If you've lost your mum, Mother's Day can be fraught with emotion as memories and the pain of losing her return amidst the celebrations. With the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic meaning more people are likely to be grieving for loved ones, Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement at Sue Ryder, shares her expert advice on coping with grief around Mother’s Day.

A woman alone at home, grieving for a loved one

For those who have lost a parent, Mother’s Day might bring up difficult emotions. Unfortunately, due to the tragic loss of life experienced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are likely to be more people than usual who have experienced an unexpected bereavement and are facing a tough Mother’s Day this year. 

Many clients have said to me how they avoid supermarkets and shops around special occasions like Mother's Day, because they don't want to see all the aisles filled with cards, chocolates and gifts. Whilst most Mother’s Day gift ideas celebrate deep maternal love and connection, some people might have experienced a more difficult relationship with their mother, or even lost touch before she died.

Below, I have some practical advice on coping with grief this Mother's Day, suggesting things you can do to help you through the day and provide support for others you know who may be struggling after losing their mum.

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.  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 are normal.

Talk about your mum

Grief can feel very isolating, but it’s likely that other people around you are feeling the loss of your mum too. Talk about your mum with others, light a candle in her memory, or do 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. For instance, perhaps you feel like 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.

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 is a way of validating your emotions and feeling closer to her, even though she is not there with you.

A meadow of blue and purple flowers in the sunshine

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 will find that many other people are experiencing the exact same feelings as 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. 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.

Is your friend grieving?

If someone you know is grieving the loss of their parent this Mother’s Day, remember to check in on them - people can find it difficult to reach out when they are grieving. 

Perhaps you can send a card or care package of their favourite things – maybe a mix of snacks for when they don’t feel up for cooking, some flowers or a game that they could play to take their mind off the day.

Further reading

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 Support

Our Online Bereavement Support provides helpful resources, qualified counsellors and a community of others with similar experiences to help you through your grief.

Bianca Neumann, Head of Bereavement at Sue Ryder

Head of Bereavement

Bianca Neumann