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Personal Development Stress

What to do when Mother’s Day feels hard

Wherever you go around this time of year, Mother’s Day is front and centre – on Facebook everyone is posting about Mother’s Day and the ads, on Facebook, TV, or at the mall, are all reminding you to get your mom something special. Try as we may, it’s hard to escape all the feelings Mother’s Day brings our way.

For me, Mother’s Day brings mixed feelings – I feel so grateful for my children and the opportunity to celebrate being a mother but I also miss my own mother who passed away nine years ago. There are many reasons Mother’s Day can be tough and I know quite a few people who find it a challenging day. I have a good friend who has a fractured relationship with her mother and the day brings sadness that their relationship is not like those of many others. I have another friend who appreciates spending Mother’s Day with her children but also mourns the child that she has lost. I know a woman who is divorced and does not always have the gift of having her children with her on Mother’s Day. I have other friends who mourn that they never had the opportunity to be mothers for one reason or another. These are only the people that I know, there are plenty more reasons that Mother’s Day can be a mixed blessing or simply a difficult day.

Here is what I have done to help me manage the mixed feelings of Mother’s Day:

  • Share your feelings with someone – it always helps me that my husband knows that even though I am thrilled and enjoying the sweetness of the kids making me cards and brownies on Mother’s Day, I am also remembering my own childhood, missing my mother and feeling sad that she never met her grandchildren. Just having someone else who knows and understands a little bit of what I’m feeling helps me to be more comfortable with my feelings in those moments.


  • Have some small ritual that helps you acknowledge the sorrow of the day. I usually take flowers down to       the ocean on Mother’s Day because my mother loved flowers so much. Sometimes I write a poem as I used to write her poems on Mother’s Day. It takes only a few moments but it helps me remember my mom and acknowledge her on this day.


  • Acknowledge your feelings so you are capable of holding two very different feelings at once. I’m caught off guard almost every Mother’s Day, expecting to be focused on my kids and the sweetness of the day with them and finding myself getting more and more emotional as the day approaches. Taking a moment to acknowledge the sorrow that I am feeling has helped me hold both my sorrow and my joy at once. Life is rich and complicated and I feel incredibly grateful to have children and enjoy their kind gifts and sweet gestures on Mother’s Day. I want to be with this while still honouring my sorrow. It’s possible to live with the polarity of our feelings but only if we acknowledge both feelings. If we just try to tamp our sorrow down, it infects all the joy we are feeling, but when we can say, even just to ourselves. ‘I am happy and I am sad’, we can make the space to experience both feelings separately.


  • Reach out to others who may be feeling the same way that you are feeling. There is great comfort in connecting with someone else who has shared your experience.


  • Create totally new rituals around the day that feel like a fit for you in the space that you are in. The first Mother’s Day after my mother died, I took a trip to Mexico because that was a country she had lived in and loved. The warmth, beaches and food all reminded me of her and everything that she loved. It felt like a wonderful way to honour her. I wish I could pull off going to Mexico every Mother’s Day but now having a new and different way to spend the day with my kids has also helped.


  • Honour the sorrow, the sadness, the loss. We spend so much of our lives feeling like we have to look happy, feel happy, and engage in certain holiday norms simply because it’s expected of us. It’s OK to feel sad particularly when you are missing someone. Have a good cry, look through old photos, listen to songs that make you think of the person or experience, write a letter (that you don’t have to send) or do whatever you know will help you express and experience your sorrow. Expressing your feelings is a way of honouring yourself and the experiences that have led to your sorrow.

Rather than wishing you a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’, I’m going to wish you a ‘Real Mother’s Day’. Have a real day, feel your feelings and be with whatever is real for you. I love learning from one another so please share in the comments how you manage the complicated feelings this day might bring up for you.


6 Comment

  1. Thanks for honouring the mixed emotions for those of us still waiting for precious children. It can be so deeply painful.

    1. Thank you for your comment and I’m glad you felt I was able to honour the many mixed feelings Mother’s Day can bring.

  2. Thank you for this Stephanie. You are wise to recognize the mixed feelings this day of recognition can hold for many of us. Your post encourages us to honor both the joy and sorrow present in the same
    Heart. I intend to do just that over a cup of tea while making a few phone calls to some special “mothers” I have the privilege of knowing as sweet friends. Thank you for “giving us permission”
    to be real and may your Mother’s Day be the same 🙂

    1. Thanks Terry! So glad you’ve got some good friends to connect with on this day. Looking forward to a Real Mother’s Day 🙂

  3. Thanks for writing this, Stephanie, and recognizing the mixture of emotions that arise on this holiday (and many others). For single people like myself, while I enjoy showering my mother with love from afar, I won’t be physically with her and that is hard. And it reminds me that being a mother myself has not been part of my life, which brings regrets and thoughts of “what if…”. So I’m going to channel my sadder emotions into bringing some measure of joy to others that day – be it a warm smile to strangers, to acts of kindness, to phone calls of caring to people who might need a lift. And those things will bring me joy.

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