Mother’s day is a poignant day and for those in grief it is a painful reminder of their loss.
Counselling Psychologist, Chloe Paidoussis Mitchell is reminded of the difficulties in navigating such days. This article is written to help those who are dreading Mother’s Day and for those supporting a loved one in grief.
This may be a person who has just lost their Mum or someone for whom Mother’s Day is a reminder of the years that have passed since her death. Others may be Mothers who are coping with having lost their child and struggling with the gaping hole left in their life. Some may be Grandparents doing their best to get through the day whilst looking after their grandchild who is now without a Mum. And others will be Widowers who are navigating the horror of getting through yet another day without Mum.
The point I want to underline is that all suffering is equal and valid and all grief responses are personal and unique.
There is no doubt that this is a day that reminds all those in grief of the sadness that they feel at the loss of a precious Mum or a precious child. It is a sadness that does not go away and the poignancy of the day is unavoidable. The tyranny of our obsession with happiness is impossible to avoid on Mother’s day and the antidote to it is to acknowledge the pain of loss, talk about it and invest our energy into meaningful acts of love and care.
'Loss of a Mum or of a child has a rippling effect ..Expressing what you feel and sharing it with the family is healing'
We don’t much talk about loss in everyday life but research in grief suggests that unless we do, and unless we openly process the psychological impact of bereavement, grief becomes delayed or develops into Depression.
With this in mind, I feel it is important to recognise that this can still be a day to mark the value, the love, the care and the meaning of your Mother’s or your Child’s life and to celebrate them and their legacy. This is a day for looking at the footprints of their life and bringing them into the here and now, in heart and mind.
The loss of a Mum or of a child has a rippling effect and it is always a family affair. Expressing what you feel and sharing it with the family is healing. You are not burdening them. They too feel sad and upset and human beings feel nurtured when their feelings are shared and understood. So trust in being authentic and allow the sadness to have a voice. It is appropriate.
Remind yourself that it is ok to allow the tears to flow. This normalises sadness (which is a good message for the little people in your life) and to openly share the loss. You miss them. You love them. And you are sad they are not here today. And you do want to celebrate their existence, their love and Mothering Sunday is still your day for appreciating them.
'When in grief, the feeling of alienation is profound and nothing feels quite normal.'
So in preparing yourself for Mother’s day, be kind to yourself and don’t feel like you are failing because you are not skipping joyfully through what is a devastating day for you.
After all, there is no right way to do this. What matters is your wellbeing and focusing on that which gives you comfort. It is all in the handling and you will get through it. You got this. But do not expect yourself to go through this alone.
When in grief, the feeling of alienation is profound and nothing feels quite normal. So with the dread of Mothering Sunday hurtling towards you, think about how to get through the day and take time to plan and mark the day in a personal and meaningful manner to you. Don’t bury your feelings about it. Share them. Talk about it and involve those who care to help you through the day.
Some people find it very helpful to mark the day with a ceremony, a memorial act of some kind (whatever that may be – visiting their place of rest, going on a long country walk, visiting their favourite place, writing a card to them and putting it into a memory box, raising balloons into the sky, lighting a candle, arranging a memorial gathering). Think about what would work for you and your family and perhaps (if you feel appropriate) together you can make a plan for the day.
If you need to have some time alone on this day make sure you have it. Spend that time wisely. But remember, isolating yourself won’t help in the long run. Bringing others in and leaning on them to share the day helps to cope with the sadness. So think about what would work for you and make a self-compassionate choice.
'In preparing yourself for Mother’s day, be kind to yourself and don’t feel like you are failing because you are not skipping joyfully through what is a devastating day for you.'
If you find that your feelings are spiralling out of control and you are finding it difficult to cope with everyday life, reach out to a professional who can offer you guided support and psychological help.
There is excellent help available. Cruse bereavement offer free bereavement counselling nationally and at the The Counselling Directory you can see who your local counselling professionals are. It is completely normal and acceptable to get help through this. After all that is what resilience is. Allowing yourself to grieve, to share your feelings and to feel heard and loved by those you care about heals.
Dr Chloe Paidoussis Mitchell is a leading grief and trauma psychologist working in the UK. Most recently she was appointed as the clinical lead for the Overcoming Grief app and has developed strong expertise in delivering digital mental health apps. Chloe is very happy to answer any questions. If you want to get in touch, don’t hesitate.
You can reach Dr Chloe via her website here