Mother’s Day is a special time of the year for many. But for those who have lost a parent, it can be unbearably hard.
This year will be 32-year-old Rochelle Bugg’s sixth Mother’s Day without her mum. She said the build up is often harder than the day itself: “My stomach fills with dread the moment I see the first supermarket display of flowers, chocolates and pink Champagne and I know I’m in for a few weeks of constant reminders that my mum is no longer around.”
This feeling is shared by many, including 38-year-old Christopher McGuire, blogger at The Out Of Depth Dad, who lost his mum to cancer 18 years ago. She was just 45. “Those 18 years feel like a lifetime and only yesterday,” he said. “It’s hard not to be bitter about this type of loss. Every time I see other people having quality time with their own mothers, there’s still a pang of what I was denied.
“These days, now I’m a dad, I can focus on my partner - as a mother. Yet I won’t lie: I am still jealous of those I see in shops, buying a bunch of flowers and box of chocolates for their mum.”
For Angela Brightwell, Mother’s Day is harder to deal with than the anniversary of her mum’s death or her birthday. The 42-year-old, whose mum died six years ago, said: “She loved the whole Mother’s Day thing and I always made a massive fuss of her - taking her out somewhere nice, buying her nice things and most importantly writing my annual ‘ode to Mum’ in her card which was always a cheesy, cheeky and very silly poem. Every year it thrilled her, made her cry and she demanded that I be made poet laureate.”
“I really miss that tradition we had - it makes me desperately sad that I don’t have her here to make a fuss of and make her feel special, and I worry that I could have done more of that when she was alive.”
If you’re dreading Mother’s Day, bereavement charities have recommended some ways that could help make it easier - although it’s worth noting that what works for some might not work for others. Cruse Bereavement Care recently shared advice on Facebook, which has been shared more than 20,000 times. The charity recommends spending 11 March by either having a quiet day on your own or marking the day in a special and personal way for you and your mum. “Maybe you’d like to do a walk you used to do with your mum, visit somewhere special to the two of you, go through photo albums or go out with friends.”
You might want to buy a Mother’s Day and write a message to your mum. You could put it up at home or take it to the cemetery or crematorium, the charity suggests. You might even wish to mark the day with flowers or gifts in memory of her.
Winston’s Wish, a charity for bereaved children, said with young children you could tie a Mother’s Day card or special message to a helium balloon and release it into the sky. You could also tell them to blow some bubbles and imagine they carry a message to their mum. Some other ways to mark the day would be by having her favourite meal; listening to her favourite music; creating a digital memory board of special photos; writing her a letter, poem or song; or planting some bulbs or a shrub in a place that holds special memories.
If you feel like you’re forgetting important things about your mum, Grief Encounter recommends making a memory box and filling it with information about her life (parents, siblings, pets, where she was born, etc), her likes and dislikes, things she was good at or not so good at, special days in her life, what she looked like or smelt like, photos, fond memories and more.
Carly Moosah, 35, lost her mum seven years ago to cancer. The senior fundraising executive from Grief Encounter said Mother’s Day changed dramatically since becoming a mother herself, as it’s now a mixture of celebration and sadness. “The day tends to be taken up with my young children who make me heartwarming art at their schools and nurseries,” she said. “My kids bring me so much joy but the longing for my mum comes to the forefront on this day.” In the evening, she catches up with her family where they keep her mum’s memory alive by sharing stories with a glass of Champagne.
If you don’t feel ready to relive old memories, it might help to carry out a simple act of memorial, according to Cruse, whether that’s visiting your mum’s final resting place, lighting a candle or having a memorial gathering in your home.
The important thing to remember is that whether you’re marking your first or Mother’s Day without your mum or your 20th, you need to be patient with yourself. You should also recognise that while these tips may help, they’re not going to free you of your grief.
“In years gone by I’ve scoured the internet looking for a ‘quick fix’ to coping with grief on days like this,” said Rochelle. “I’ve read all the self-care tips about treating yourself, looking back through old photographs, remembering the good times, going on a long walk, chatting to loved ones - all of those are great but I think where I went wrong was expecting them to ‘fix’ things, for them to make days like Mother’s Day not be painful anymore.
“Now I understand that it’s always going to hurt, there’s always going to be an element of sadness. I tell myself it’s the price to pay for loving someone so much. For me, accepting that and not seeing sadness on days like this as being ‘wrong’ or something I need to try and ‘fix’ has helped a lot.”
Call Cruse Bereavement Care on its freephone helpline: 0808 808 1677.
Grief Encounter provides free support for bereaved children and young people in the UK following the death of a loved one. It also provides one to one counselling, grief groups, workshops, residential weekends, fun day, professional training and Remembrance days.