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.