Coping With Mother’s Day When Your Mom Has Passed On

Mother’s Day has to be one of the worst days of the year if you have already lost, or are in the midst of losing, your mom.

Wherever you go, there are reminders that your mom isn’t here or soon won’t be, ads for what gifts you should buy her, reminders to get her cards and flowers, discounts on the hottest restaurants. There are radio promotions, TV commercials; even your friends are talking about what they’re doing or what their kids plan to do for them! For those without the presence of their real mom (and that includes adopted kids), Mother’s Day and the weeks preceding it can be some of the loneliest, most agonizing, miserable moments of the year.

In my book, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye, I refer to such holidays as “Lonely Landmarks,” joyful days that may once have been preceded by a sense of expectation and excitement, filled with fun and laughter, and shared with the people we love. They were rites of passage, uniting family and friends in celebrations, creating treasured memories that brightened our lives.

Yet for the bereaved, these festive times can take on a whole new meaning. They can easily become the cause for suffering. The cards, presents, gifts and phone calls received by others often serve as a painful reminder that they won’t be getting any such thing from the person who has gone. These celebrations are no longer something to get excited about; instead, they emphasize the absence of a loved one, bringing back painful memories and magnifying the sense of separation–instead they become Lonely Landmarks.

Each Lonely Landmark will, in time, be less of a reminder of the loss. As the years pass, the bereaved begin to adjust to their new life, building new relationships and forming fresh memories, which will help to make those special occasions easier to bear.  Eventually, these events will be a cause for celebration again, and the bereaved will find they experience joy, excitement and laughter once more.  Nevertheless, there will still be days when they experience a resurgence of grief.

So what do you do about the times in-between? And what can you do to help someone who has lost his or her mom and will inevitably be having a tough day?

Talking is great. Remembering is healing. Expressing emotions is powerful. Don’t sit at home alone and suffer in silence. Plan to spend the day with someone who really understands what you are going through, perhaps someone else who lost their mom too, and together you can comfortably share memories, cry, express feelings and do something special to honor the contribution your moms made to your life. Whatever you do, don’t pretend that all is OK when it’s not, just for the sake of everyone else. This will leave you feeling miserable and make the day so much worse.

Something I like to do each year is write my mom a note, as if she were here. I write a description of the memories from previous Mother’s Days (they always ended up in family arguments, a picnic in the rain–I was bought up in England–and I’m sure my mom was left wondering why on earth she ever had kids!) and how these memories have added to my life, and a message of love; then I tie this to a helium balloon and release it somewhere, skywards.

If you know someone who has already lost their mom or is about to, the best thing you can do is take some time out to just be with them, or ask them to share their feelings. Don’t be scared if you unblock their cork and they start sobbing, or screaming–this is healthy. Better out than in as the old adage goes. It may not seem like it at the time, but this will help them to feel much better in the long run, encouraging them towards a healthy recovery. Again, ask them if there is something special they would like to do to celebrate their Mom.

One last thing, I highly recommend Hope Edelman’s book, Motherless Daughters, for any woman who has lost her Mom, and with Father’s Day fast approaching, I also recommend Neil Chethik’s book, FatherLoss, for men who’ve lost their dad.

Gemini Adams

More Articles Written by Gemini

Gemini Adams is a healthy living advocate and educator, yoga teacher and writer/producer with a portfolio of bestselling books, published articles and award-winning documentaries to her name. In the role of educator, Gemini has mentored and taught classes and workshops to adults, at-risk teens, children, the bereaved, the elderly and special needs groups on a variety of transformative, health and wellbeing topics as well as the creative writing and publishing process. Her freelance healthy living articles have appeared in Women's Health, RED magazine, BOOM, Live It Natural, Yahoo.com, and her books and documentaries have been covered by The Huffington Post, The Today Show, BBC, Reuters, Marketing Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Female First, Ecosalon, and Family Health and Wellness Magazine, to name just a few. In 2006, Gemini was awarded the UK’s prestigious Winston Churchill Fellowship grant to research the Role of Love in Palliative Care interviewing directors of leading hospices, palliative care, and bereavement organizations across the United States. This research was the basis for her multiple award-winning book, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye, published in 2009, which has since been translated into several languages. Gemini was a guest on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart,” where she discussed Remembering our Parents with hosts Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley.

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  • Cortney says:

    Thank you for this post..i have been searching for more information about this upcoming mother’s day and having lost a mother…I lost my mother this Valentine’s Day, and it was unexpected, she was only 43 years old, and i am pregnant with my first child, due in July. My husband has been such a wonderful help..we live out of state as he is in the Army and we have no friends or family out here. Also, he is leaving in Sept. for his second tour in Iraq…My birthday is tomorrow, and then Mother’s Day Sunday…I have been experiencing a lot of death this year, my best friends Grandmother passed away 2 weeks after my mom, my other best friends dog whom she had for 14 years passed away the day before our baby shower, and this morning, a very close friend of the family’s mother passed away…needless to say, this year has been very rough, and my Mother was my best friend and the one I could tell anything to besides my husband. I am going to look into that book “Motherless Daughters”..and my husband and I have gone to a grieve counselor…but I don’t know how else to handle all this loss, especially becoming a mother and losing mine with Mother’s Day right around the corner..I don;t feel like doing much of anything. If there is anything you recommend please let me know..

    Thank you,
    Cortney

  • Gemini Adams says:

    Dear Cortney,

    What a challenging series of events for you, and all so close together. You must feel very overwhelmed by this. One loss is a lot to handle, but two, three, four losses is a lot for anyone to handle. Losing your Mom is, no doubt, the hardest of all.

    My advice to you is twofold. First of all, take really good care of yourself. Don’t pretend, don’t fore yourself to do anything you or anyone else thinks you “should” be doing. Grief has its own timeline and your task is to tap into it, listen to your body, emotions and instincts and go with them, irrespective of what is going on in the outside world. This is a special time for you. Grief and bereavement teach us lots of things. As a result of losing someone, we often gain a deeper appreciation of life, it can motivate us to do the things we always wanted to but believed for whatever reason that we couldn’t. A death often opens our eyes to love. Whereas before we might have allowed conflicts to continue and bad words to hang in the air, after a loss we realize the importance of clearing things up, making amends and sharing nothing but love. Although it may seem impossible to see this at the moment, in every loss there is a silver lining.

    I’m glad you’ve gone to get grief support, reading Hope Edelman’s book will be really helpful, and I also recommend The Grief Recovery Handbook, and, as you are about to become a Mom, I also suggest my own book, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye.

    One more thing. Know that your Mom is watching over you, she really hasn’t gone away entirely, just in a physical sense and you will find that in some strange way she shows up just when you need her and that your relationship will continue, albeit in a different form.

    Remember, look after number one.

    blessing to you,

    Gemini Adams
    Grief Expert and Author

    • Venice Macedo says:

      Hi,can you please help me? I first lost my nephew and we had to travel to northern Fl and my ma was not allowed to go Dr.s orders. I took care of her,she had heart problems and other problems as well,but we all told her she could not go to my nephews funeral and her acact word were “I’m going to go if it kills me’ and it did. We all went to the wake and funeral and she was on oxogen and my ex-fiance stayed in the hotel room next door to my ma and dad. my dad came knocking on our door really earlly in the morning because my ex was a paramedic to come see what was wrong with my ma he looked and said call 911 he said she had a stroke and she did. my ex had to back home and my ma went to icu me and my dad spent 2 months up there,we got her stable enogh,found what we thought was a good nursing home i would go there everyday,then we got a call she was being transfered to a hospital my dad made me leave because i knew something was wrong,and the dr gave my ma the wrong medication that killed her.All I know is i really miss her and i can’t find anyone to talk to that understands.Sorry i spelled some words wrong,i just really need someone to talk to.Will you please help me? Thank You

  • Patrick Himebaugh says:

    People go through Losses in their own way… I went through a Loss first it was my Job, then it was my home, then it was my friends, then it was my girlfriend that we got pregnant I was Jobless and Homeless She threaten to abort the child many times.. I swore things would get better and I would Find a Way. but I lost everything my pride and my love.. I put my self first and things have gotten better for my self however I am at a lose still. Now I don’t know where the mother of my child is or the where about if this child is alive or in a better place with god. I look every day in the papers and online and I stumbled across this. I tried so hard when she was pregnant to know and understand what she was going through especially knowing what hurt her the most was loosing her mother. I often worry about loosing mine, I got a tattoo when my best friend lost his mother in sign of respect for all mothers. But the mother I care about most aside from my own Is the one that bared my child. I cry Every day.. the tears and emotion that goes into a fathers loss not knowing where is child is is unbearable. Seeking the right doctor to help is a start and probably the best choice I made in a long time. So if I were to Tell Venice something… something that was taught to me by someone I met. The past will haunt you and if you love something so much and they are no longer with you anymore you have to let it go in order to move on.. and That is the hardest part when you loose someone you love so much that you cannot bear a day in thought of loosing that one person. I wish I never lost my Life long Friend partner and soul mate.. she she is gone and so is the child. and it hurts every day how I have to get the strength to move on. keep putting my foot forward and take that next breath.