Mother’s Day is an extremely important day, and moms should be honored ideally every day of the year, not just one day. For most people, Mother’s Day is a wonderful day, or at least a benign day, unless you happen to be a motherless, and/or childless person coping with painful reminders of loss or unrealized dreams of motherhood. Society, and the media, can make women feel so much “less than” if we haven’t reproduced, and it’s most pronounced during this time of year. The countless Mother’s Day reminders coming at you for weeks before the big day can make it feel almost as if it’s no longer just a day, it’s an entire season.
After weeks of being flooded with media about moms, surviving Mother’s Day can feel like trying to drag yourself across the finish line of a marathon, while everyone around you celebrates being a mom, or having a mom. Not to mention the ensuing social media explosion of photos of all of all your contacts, with an infinite stream of picture-perfect moms and kids having fun and looking so happy together. In fact, Mother’s Day can even be a tough day for some people who do still have a mom, but who may be estranged or have a strained or difficult relationship.
I’ve spent the past 13 motherless Mother’s Days in 13 different ways. As the 14th approaches, I’m here to say, there is no one perfect way to spend it, nor is there an easy fix for getting through this day. Each year, it depends on where you are with the grieving process, and with life in general.
1. Take a break from social media. Especially if this is one of your first motherless Mother’s Days, you may want to take a bit of a break on social media before and/or during the holiday. You may not have to cut it out completely, but maybe avoid social media at times when you’re not feeling your best. If you are feeling the slightest bit down or depressed about the loss of your mom, you may want to just avoid social media until you are having a better day. And even then, be sure to brace yourself for the many possible triggers you may encounter online.
2. If you are a mom, focus on YOU, your kids, and the joy of your motherhood, if possible. You are lucky that you still have someone to celebrate (yourself!) on Mother’s Day, so enjoy your day and let your kids spoil you! Perhaps this could include an activity that you enjoyed with your own mom, or something that will help carry on memories of her to your kids. Some moms say they have a hard time enjoying Mother’s Day because they feel such grief about the loss of their own mom, or they feel guilt that their mom is not there. That’s common and okay too. Hopefully you can try to enjoy some time with your kids, if you have it.
3. Celebrate the other women, moms, and motherly figures in your family, if you feel up to it. If not, don’t feel forced or required to do so. Depending on your mood and where you are in your life journey as a motherless or childless adult, celebrating with others may or may not be the best idea. Sometimes it can actually make you feel more alone, ironically. You may feel like you’re a tag along, or like you are on the outside looking in. Only you can decide what you need on this day. If you do feel like being around others and celebrating other moms, this could be grandma, aunts, a sister, step-mom, or a mother-in-law, for example. Spend quality time with them before or on Mother’s Day, if possible. You will brighten their day, and yours too! Also, if you have a dad, don’t forget about him! If you’re mourning the death or loss of your mom, your dad may also be hurting or grieving on Mother’s Day.
4. Honor your mom’s legacy with an activity you enjoyed together. You can do this on your own or with friends or family. If you are a mom, you could share this activity, whatever it may be, with your kids too! Did you love baking with your mom? Going to church? Shopping? Was there a special way you always celebrated Mother’s Day with your mom? You can still enjoy that with your kids or other family members on Mother’s Day. If you are not a mom, you can still honor your mom’s legacy by sharing this activity with friends, other family members, or just on your own!
5. Visit your mom’s grave site. This is not something I am always in the mood for, but some years, over the past 12-13 years, I enjoyed the peaceful solitude and serenity of a quiet visit to the cemetery. Sometimes it’s just reassuring to see the tangible, permanent reminder of her earthly existence. Sometimes it makes me feel close to her by going there and freshening up the flowers and tidying up around her headstone. Other years, this is the last thing I want to do! Some people don’t “do” cemeteries, which is understandable. I enjoy the meditative aspect of it. In fact, meditation and prayer can also be a great way to boost your mental and emotional status, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be at a cemetery. You can reflect, pray, or meditate at church, or at home, if it’s helpful.
6. Volunteer in the community. There are many moms and grandmothers in nursing homes, hospitals, and homeless shelters who have no one to share Mother’s Day with them. Many of these women are or were mothers who outlived their children, or their kids are too far away to visit. I volunteered at a local nursing home on one recent Mother’s Day, and it was a great experience, visiting with the women there and helping give a party for them. It was a fun, rewarding day and this is something I would do again. The sweet ladies were so appreciative and excited to have visitors, it was a very special way to spend Mother’s Day. This is also a great activity to do with your own family, if you’re looking for a way to make an impact in the community on Mother’s Day. It’s very difficult to find volunteers on Mother’s Day, because the majority of people are celebrating with their kids / parents / spouse, and are too busy on this day.
7. Spend time with other motherless and/or childless/child-free women. This is always a great way to have fun on day that can be a tough one for those of us with no kids and no parents. Plan a fun day with friends and celebrate YOU.
I’ve been there, 13 times, and have felt differently about the holiday each year. As the years go on, emotions ebb and flow and evolve over time. Time has helped ease the grief over losing my own mom, but age has brought a different type of grieving for missed motherhood and the children I now know I’ll never have. Letting go of that “some day” vision of “one day” becoming a mom has been a tough process, but it has also given my heart room to seek some other purpose and driving force in my life, which I’m working on growing and building into reality.