How to Survive Mother's Day as a Motherless Daughter (or Son)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Photo by Shopify Partners from Burst

Every year just after Easter, the emails start to flood my inbox:


Everyone from Shopper's Drug Mart, KFC, Netflix to various blogs, Pinterest pins and tweets along with folks around my office and randoms on the street - they're all talking Mother's Day and I can't seem to escape it. I'm sure most people don't even notice the subtle change in the spring marketing messages, but as a motherless daughter I feel like it's a constant reminder that I haven't been able to send my mom a card or flowers to celebrate this 'special day' in 15 years.

Like clockwork each year at the beginning of May I start to get a little bit more sensitive and emotional. Things that wouldn't normally upset me send me into a bit of a spiral. I'm less confident and more caught up in the small stuff. I've started to recognize this pattern in myself in recent years and am slowly developing strategies to cope with one of the three toughest days of the year for me (next to her death anniversary and birthday). Here are some things that are helping me this year:

Be gentle - you may find that days like Mother's Day become a trigger for you, just as they have for me. Breathe and allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you're feeling. Losing a parent is tough on any given day and it's hard to be constantly reminded of your loss by the media and those around you.

Practice good self care - take your time and do something nice for yourself. Take a walk in the sunshine. Journal. Nap. Make a nourishing meal. Have tea. Treat yourself to a new book or manicure. It doesn't need to be elaborate or crazy, but give yourself some time and space to give yourself a little bit of extra TLC

Surround yourself with people you love - you may need a distraction or maybe you want to spend some time talking about your feelings, and these are the people you can count on. Try to communicate how they can support you through this tough day and don't be afraid to ask for their help. You know you'd do the same for them. I'm so thankful for some very special people in my life who have been a wonderful source of support this week.

Find a way to honour your mom - it's unlikely that you'll take advantage of any of the Mother's Day gift guides or sales, but it's lovely if you can find a way to celebrate this day. It might be writing a note for her in your journal, planting flowers in her memory or even just taking some time to think about her. Rather than viewing Mother's Day as a negative, use it as an opportunity to reflect on your mother's memory

Make plans for "the day" - It can include any of the above strategies or hiding from the world altogether. I like to give myself something to look forward to on Mother's Day as it helps me to get through the week. This year I've asked someone I love very much to spend the day with me. I'm not sure what it will entail just yet, but knowing that I'm not going to have to face the day alone is a huge relief 

Last, but not least, remember that it's just a day. 

This is a big one for me to remind myself of. I've come to learn that dates hold a large significance for me, but also that I will make it through. I'm doing everything I can to be gentle with myself and employ as many of these strategies as I can while still allowing myself to feel whatever I need to feel. I'm incredibly blessed to be surrounded by the most wonderful people and look forward to getting through this tough day for another year. 

What do you do to get past days that are challenging? How do you take care of yourself?


Gillian said...

That must be so hard. Glad you are taking care of yourself. You are a walking beautiful tribute to your mother in every way.

Not that it compares, but I have been struggling with "wedding season". Working on the self care bit. xx

Chris said...

Great post and ideas, Ashley. I can relate to a lot of what you said. On days like Mother's Day, here are two things I try to do. I try to do something nice and unexpected for someone or others. Lend a helping hand, drop off a small gift, do something unexpected. The other is that I take the time and funds that I would have spent on a gift and donate that to charity. That way the time and money continues to do good, even in my Mom's absence.

Sounds like you have a wonderful day planned or Sunday.

Marty said...

Inspiring well-articulated thoughts, as usual Ashley! :)

Humour's always my coping mechanism of choice. Especially around darker topics. It's not so much about irreverence as an active choice to not let circumstances beyond my control overwhelm me or suppress my natural inclination toward joy.

The way I see it… My relationship with my mom is a transcendent thing. Bigger than the day in September that she was born. Realer than the day in June, almost three years ago now, that she died. And more fascinating(to me) and complex than the bizarre origin of Mothers' Day, which this podcast episode deconstructs beautifully:

My mom taught me how to laugh. At myself. At the world. At leukaemia.

So, when I see an Indigo ad that says, "It's never too late to get a great gift for Mom," I can't help but laugh as I say, "Yeah, it is."

Terez Mertes said...

I just posted a piece on this very subject at my blog, The Classical Girl ("Honoring the Motherless Daughter Today"), and I'm just thrilled and amazed that we are saying so much of the same thing. I wrote the first essay years back, and I've never thought to check the Internet in past years just before Mother's Day. Boy, what a comfort. I now know that I'm not alone as a motherless daughter on Mother's Day.

Thank you - this was so lovely to read.

Amanda said...

These are all really wonderful ideas. Mother's day has been such a hard day since my mother passed away several years ago. But as time as gone on it's gotten a little better. Every mothers day now I try to remember a fun memory about her and write it down. Then when I am feeling down I can just go back and read all the wonderful memories I have about her.

Brewed Together said...

These are great ideas. Glad you are thinking about ways to see the good and remember her. Thanks for sharing! Xo, M&K at

itsybitsybrianna said...

What a wonderful outlook you have and a great heart to share that with others. I don't know whats its like to lose a parent, but I'm so sorry you had to.

This was such a blessing of a post! Thanks so much for being inspiring.


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