When Mother's Day is bittersweet

We think about and celebrate our mum’s on Mother’s Day.  We are encouraged to do so.  We think about what it means to be a Mother – the unconditional love, the care, and the support.  And once we are mother’s ourselves, our appreciation for our own mother increases dramatically. But what about when this is not your experience of Mother’s Day?

The reminders we see everywhere in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day only cause more anxiety and pain when this is not our experience of the day.  All the advertisements in the newspapers, magazines and on television are about smiling mother's with adorable children. The mums are all young and beautiful, and the children are all angelic and dressed in white (why is that?!).

If your own mum has passed, or you have lost a child, or you are desperately longing to be a mum, or if you never had a good relationship with your mum (or child), then Mother's Day can be highly emotional and very difficult.  The constant reminders of what you don't have can be heart-breaking.

No matter your age and no matter your mother’s age; when your mother or your child is not around, Mother’s Day is hard.

For mum’s who have had a miscarriage, or a stillborn baby, this day is especially fraught, as to the general passer-by you do not appear to be a mother.

But you are.

If you have had a child, whether they are here or not, you are a mother.

It may feel painful, and be bittersweet as you acknowledge the hurt and sorrow that is associated with the title “mother” and the loss of your child.  But please remember,  Mother’s Day is for you too.

But what can we do about this bittersweet feeling?

Short of hiding away in a cave for the day itself and the whole month beforehand (which is not really practical nor recommended), I have found the following works for me.

1 - An attitude of gratitude

This simply means instead of feeling upset or angry about what I don’t have, I focus on what I do have.  I don’t have my second son with me, nor my beloved grandmothers.  But I do have two other beautiful sons and my amazing mum and a wonderful mother-in-law.   I am blessed to have them, and whilst I miss my son, I treasure the moments I have with my living sons.  Being their mum is something I love, and I acknowledge it's an honour.

Another friend finds Mother’s Day challenging, as her mum is no longer with us.  She told me she focuses on her amazing friends, acknowledging that their love and support is at times as nurturing as the love and support she received from her mother.  She misses her mum every single day, yet is so grateful for all the love and guidance provided by her.  She wouldn’t be the successful businesswoman she is today without the support and energy of her equally driven mum.

2 - Allow my feelings to be expressed

It’s hard to let yourself fully embrace the feelings you have when they look and feel counter to what society expects of you.  Yes, it’s hard to let yourself be sad when all the messages we receive are about ‘happy mother’s’.  But I am giving you permission; let your feelings flow. If you feel sad on Mother’s Day, just allow yourself.  By letting yourself experience your emotions, you will move through them and feel better sooner.

3 - Mark the day

Marking the day may seem counter-intuitive when all you want to do is hide and for the day to be over.  But for me, it worked.  In fact, when it was the first Mother's Day after my second son was stillborn, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law helped me mark the day.  They gave me a beautiful rose in a large pot.  The rose was the "Children's Rose".  I still have it, and it's a daily reminder of that first Mother's Day without our longed for baby.  In subsequent years, we went out to lunch and quietly acknowledged the absence in our own way.

The way you choose to mark the day needn't be with a plant, nor going out.  You may wish to light a candle, pick a flower, make a meal that was your mother or grandmother's speciality, write a letter or any number of other things.  What you do to mark the day doesn't matter so much; it is more about allowing yourself to acknowledge the loss and bittersweet feelings.  Doing a little activity to mark the day can help with that.

I know I will shed a tear on Mother’s Day for the ones I love who are not here.  I will spend the day with my mum and children, and together we will quietly acknowledge our missing loved ones.  And there will be countless others who feel the same, maybe including you.

So, as we approach Mother’s Day this weekend, I wish for your days be full of love, gratitude for what you have or had, and importantly, full of kindness to yourself.

More support

If you are struggling with sadness, you may want to read this blog post, or this one for some tips.

If you'd like to work with me, or just learn more about what coaching can offer click here.