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For some people, Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of absence and loss. Whether it be the death of a mother, a child or a reminder of damaged relationships, it can be one of the most agonizing days of the year.
Grieving the loss of a mother or child is not always straightforward, and on meaningful days like Mother’s Day, feelings of anger, longing, sadness and loneliness can become intense. These are feelings to be aware of as the day approaches, for the sake of yourself or anyone you know who has lost a mother or child.
"Grief is an ongoing process and can manifest emotionally, physically, spiritually and socially," Eugene Dufour, Bereavement and Trauma Therapist at the Rotary Hospice in Stratford, Ont. tells Yahoo Canada. "Even when it feels like the worst parts of grieving are over, it’s normal to get triggered or experience difficult emotions on significant days like Mother’s Day."
Joelle Blackburn, a psychologist who specializes in death and trauma, agrees that coping with the loss of the mother or a child can be "hard work."
"It requires navigating ongoing or unpleasant feelings, trying to keep up with your own life, and attempting to keep the memory of the deceased person alive," Blackburn tells Yahoo Canada. "While it can be tough, there are ways to honour and celebrate the life you have lost."
Allow yourself to grieve
While it may seem as though it would be easier to try and avoid dealing with painful feelings, Blackburn believes it’s important to intentionally face your grief.
"It’s challenging, but taking time to think about your lost mother or child, or spending some time in a place that meant something to the deceased, is an important part of the grieving process," she says. "Perhaps try journaling or writing things you were never able to say in a letter, or create a piece of artwork resembling your emotions."
Dufour adds that allowing yourself to feel difficult emotions is an essential part of the grieving process.
"Grief attacks the meaning of someone’s life, which affects their purpose," he explains. "When your purpose is questioned, misery kicks in and you have to discover the mystery of this new world you live in. If you don’t allow yourself to grieve, it might be hard to move on in a productive way."
Develop a ritual
Creating a new ritual, tradition or routine can allow you the time and space to mourn while turning the day into something positive.
"Some individuals I support tell me that special traditions give them comfort and remembrance," says Blackburn. "Doing something in their memory such as going for a nature walk or lighting a candle to embrace your grief can really help."
"I suggest that grieving individuals develop a ritual like planting a tree or releasing a balloon every year on Mother’s Day," adds Dufour. "Put their picture up or create mementos from their personal belongings if you still have them. This can be a really powerful way to remember them."
Grief can be exhausting, so it’s important to look after yourself physically and emotionally. Find a new Netflix series to watch, meditate or try a new recipe; anything you can think of that would help you relax and unwind.
If you’re feeling up to it, Dufour suggests "connecting with a friend or practicing relaxation techniques to help you stay grounded."
"Take a nap or treat yourself to your favourite take-out meal. It’s ok to not be at your best so you need to be gentle with yourself," adds Blackburn. "Grieving also increases cortisol, which is a stress hormone, so practicing self-care can help to reduce stress in the body."
Ask for support
While grief can be isolating and painful, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Draw on your network of family and friends, or seek professional support if you think it would help. While it may feel awkward or nerve-wracking to ask for support, Dufour believes that it is a sign of "bravery rather than weakness."
"It can help to talk about memories or experiences of your loved one, or connect with people who have gone through similar experiences," he says.
Dufour also believes that people who aren't grieving can play a vital role in supporting someone who is struggling with loss.
"In my experience, people are frozen in their grief. We need to be proactive. Give them a call, or send them an email," he recommends. "Let them know you are thinking of them. Never underestimate the power of your presence."