"For those of us whose Mums have died, we are often at a loss as to how to deal with Mother's Day," acknowledges Christine Ellis, Head of Family Support at our Sue Ryder Wheatfields Hospice. "Do we ignore it? Do we feel sad or filled with regret? Do we celebrate it?" Chris, who has helped countless families through bereavement, shares her expert advice.
March is the month that’s famously known for bringing ‘breezes loud and shrill’, but for many of us it also brings the feelings and emotions stirred up by Mother’s Day.
For those who still have their Mums with them, it is an opportunity to say thank you to their Mum; to treat them and to let them know how much they are appreciated.
For those of us whose Mums have died, this is no longer possible and we are often at a loss as to how we deal with Mother’s day. Do we ignore it? Do we feel sad or filled with regret? Do we celebrate it?
Why does losing a mother hurt so much?
Mothers often hold a special place in people’s hearts. They’re the ones who have given birth to you, nurtured you, raised you and eventually supported you in your journey into the wider world. They’ve loved you, comforted you when things have gone wrong and encouraged you in your achievements.
So when we lose that person, we lose not only them but all the safety, security, and unconditional love and support that has been present throughout our lives. And, because we hold our mothers in such high regard and have seen the sacrifices they have made for us – the ‘going without’, the worry through our teenage years, the challenges they fought on our behalf – we feel the unfairness of the illness or accident that took them away; of their untimely death; of the struggles and treatments they’ve endured; and the intrusion into their life that all this brought.
And, unlike your Mum’s birthday or the anniversary of her death, this isn’t something that you can quietly deal with on your own and in your own way. Instead, the whole country seems to be joining together to celebrate, to express their joy and happiness in being able to say thank you to their Mums for just being there for them. And you feel alone, left out and isolated by the pain of losing your Mum, which makes not being able to say thank you even more raw.
Ways to cope
But there are things you can do to help yourself through this day, and one of those things is to listen to your own feelings.
Do it your way. If it feels right for you to ignore it, then do so. It doesn’t have to carry on being a special day for you; it might have been sufficient that you celebrated when she was alive.
For others, it might feel right to keep the day special, to remember their Mum and to mark it in some way. And again this is fine. And again, you can do it in your way: celebrate it. perhaps, by doing something you did regularly (go out for a meal, play a game of bingo or take a trip to the seaside) or use it as a more solemn day of remembrance by visiting a special place you had, taking flowers to the grave, attending a church service or just spending the day alone to reflect.
Whichever way works best for you.
And remember, it’s quite possible that how you approach it now might change over the years, or vary from year to year.
If you never knew your Mum or lost your chance to be one...
We should remember also those people who may not have ever known their Mum, or those for whom the relationship was never a comfortable or easy one.
Those of you who have regrets or sadness about this, remember that that immediate love a mother feels at the birth of a child can never be taken away. The stresses and anxieties and cruelties of life can intervene but those first moments can never be undone.
I also want to mention those Mums who have lost children. Losing a child can be an incredibly difficult situation, particularly when it’s a baby or a very young child. And it can be distressing to observe the happiness of other young families celebrating Mother's Day.
Listen to your heart
Whatever your situation, however you feel, listen to your own heart and spend the day according to what feels right for you. Ask for support from other people if you don’t want to be alone.
Grief and loss is such an individual and personal experience that only by listening to yourself will you find the right way for you.
If you would like to talk to others who have lost their Mum this Mother's Day, you can reach out on our Online Community.
Head of Family Support - Wheatfields Hospice
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.