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How To Get Through Mother's Day Without Your Mom

Mother's Day is just around the corner and for those of us who've lost our moms, especially if recently, we might be dreading the day.

I remember my first Mother's Day without my Mami who'd passed away about 6 months prior. All the TV commercials, Hallmark movies, social media posts, advertising, and holiday card aisles at the local stores leading up to the big day were constant painful reminders that my mom was no longer here. Seeing others with their moms was like somebody stabbing the pieces of my already broken heart over and over again. It didn't seem fair. Why my mom? Why don't I get to have her here like everyone else out there?

On that first Mother's Day without my mom I had to work so I sucked it up and did my job. (BTW, if you're scheduled to work that day, it's up to you if you prefer to keep yourself busy with work or take the day off). Even though it hurt deeply that I couldn't be with my mom, it helped me to reach out to my friends who are mothers and wish them well that day. By the time I got home, however, I was in deep despair again and wished for the day to be over with. I couldn't bear another moment being reminded of her absence.

Because of this I felt compelled to share with you ways to tap into your mom's presence and how to cope with the day that you wish you didn't have to face.

I also recognize the added layer of trauma now present during the Coronavirus lockdown which has not only hindered many of our rituals like having funerals, services and celebrations of life, but can also make us feel even more isolated and alone in our grief.

Here are some suggestions you can consider to help you through this Mother's Day:

Be with your loved ones. Surrounding ourselves with the people we love can help take away the sting of loss. Given that we're quarantined and may not be able to physically get together with any, some or all of our loved ones, you can coordinate a FaceTime or Skype call with family and friends to share stories, pictures and fond memories of your mom. You might even choose to coordinate the call over brunch at home. Maybe you pick up some of your mom's favorite food to eat and reminisce over that together.

Go it alone. While this may sound disheartening, this may be exactly what you need. Being alone can give us time to reflect on our feelings and make sense of things. Mother-daughter relationships aren't all always roses and sunshine; some of us have had complicated relationships and hardships with our moms who've passed away and we may feel various emotions like guilt, resentment, and anger coming up. Whether you had a tender or tumultuous relationship with your mom, take this day to meditate, journal and reflect on the lessons you've learned from your relationship with your mom and the lessons you're learning in grief. Be sure to remember the good stuff too. That's important in creating meaning and legacy out of our loss.

Create your own ritual. According to Psychology Today, "rituals are an important way for people to find meaning when they lose a loved one." For those of us who've lost their moms during quarantine, we may not have been able to hold a funeral or service as we'd hoped for. It feels totally unfair and cruel but is unfortunately completely out of our control at this time. So consider creating your own service, celebration of life, or ritual at home (yes, even if it's a party of 1: you or you can invite loved ones via video chat). The power of rituals lies in their symbolism. Whether that's lighting a candle, saying a prayer, playing her favorite music, eating her favorite food, toasting with a glass of bubbly, watching her favorite movie, planting a tree or flowers in your garden, making an at-home spa day, reading a eulogy, poem or note you wrote for her or any other activity that connects you with your mom, it doesn't matter what it is so long as it symbolizes something special with regard to your mom and your connection with her.

Write a card or letter to your mom. "But my mom's no longer here", you think, "what's the point of getting her a card?" It might be way too painful to go searching for a Mother's Day card for her (I sooo understand this and if it is, please don't do it) but the point here is to reach out to her. Write her a letter or make your own card if you like and pour out all your feelings to her. Let her know how life has been since she's been gone, what you've been struggling with, what you miss most about her, what memory with her still makes you laugh or smile. Write whatever comes to your heart. It doesn't matter if you're a "good writer" or not; simply write to her like you'd talk to her in a regular conversation. Then you can read it aloud to her. And if writing's just not your jam, speak out loud to her from your heart. Her spirit will pick up on it (not even death can separate the bond you share with each other).

Reach out to others who've lost their mom. Maybe you've got a friend who's motherless. There are also many online groups for motherless daughters, especially on Facebook. It might bring you much needed comfort to know you're not alone in your experience and your feelings.

Avoid social media altogether. Getting online and seeing people post pics with their moms (whether they're able to get together with them or not while in lockdown) can feel like a punch in the gut. Consider not logging on for the day if you feel like you can't handle seeing anyone else sharing about their (still living) moms.

Give yourself flowers. If you would've normally gotten your mom flowers, consider getting them anyway. You can pick her favorite flowers (or get your favorite if your prefer) and use them to both honor her and brighten your home. Having fresh-cut flowers at home has researched health benefits; they can boost your mood, reduce stress, relax your mind and even physically help you heal (grief is not just emotional but very physical too).

Suspend all expectations for the day and be open. On the 1st anniversary of my mom's passing, thanks to the government shutdown in 2013, my dad, sister and I were unable to get to the site where'd we'd strewn her ashes. I felt so let down, like our chance to honor our mom and be with her ashes had been taken away. We instead made an impromptu car trip elsewhere and ended up having a most wonderful afternoon together (on the 2nd anniversary we also discovered something amazing about her ashes which I share about in "A Beautiful Death"). Maybe you make plans and they change. Maybe you don't plan anything and end up doing something special. There is no right or wrong. What helps us cope is being able to go with the flow, riding the waves of uncertainty whether it be up or down that day.

A heart-shaped cloud that appeared during our impromptu trip to honor our mom's passing.

Notice how some of these suggestions directly contradict one another. This is the reality of grief. While grief is universal, we all grieve differently. There are a myriad of ways you can celebrate and honor your mom after she's no longer alive (and you might also be a mom yourself). You can also decide you don't want to do anything at all that day because it might feel like too much to handle and that's totally ok too. Most important is that you honor YOUR feelings and communicate your needs with your family or roommates at home, if any, so they can better support you. Remember, don't have any expectations. You might feel one way leading up to Mother's Day and then feel completely different on the actual day. Grief can make us feel crazy with all those ups and downs and unexpected, messy emotions! Just know that whatever you feel, whatever you decide to do or not do, it's all ok.


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