Dealing with mother’s day when you’ve lost your Mum
Yesterday I was asked why I hadn’t done a blog about mother’s day for people whose mum had passed away and found the day difficult. The funny thing is it hadn’t even occurred to me. Here in the UK, mother’s day was Sunday (April 3rd), whereas in NZ (where my mum is, so it’s the date I pay attention to) it is May 8th this year. So to be honest it didn’t even really register in my brain. So thank you to the person who pointed this out to me.
So while I know I am two days late for mother’s day this could still be useful if you struggled with the day because your mum isn’t here or with any other special day relating to her (and you could always do your own little mother’s day again).
Holidays without your parent can be particularly tough, especially the ones in their honour like mother’s and father’s days and their birthdays. Let’s chat about a couple of simple things you can do on a day like that to make it a bit easier. There are two main things here I’ll talk about and they are about thinking about your mum…and NOT thinking about her.
Not thinking about your Mum
I don’t mean what you think I mean. What I want to do here is get one of the least-discussed (but most prevalent and painful) emotions out of your way. There are many reasons that make these days hard – you miss them, you’re more aware of their absence, you want to call or give a card/gift but can’t – but another huge factor is that we think we are supposed to spend the whole day thinking about the parent that we’ve lost….and we feel guilty when we don’t. When your mum was alive you didn’t think about her 24-7, not even on mother’s day or her birthday – and even if you tried really hard your brain just wouldn’t allow it. It’s ok that she isn’t on your mind all the time. And it’s ok if you actually didn’t really think much about mother’s day as it approached…or even on the day itself. You have your life to live too and I’ll bet it would have been really important to your mum to see you doing that. If you do still feel a twinge of guilt then check out this blog about how you think you should be feeling.
Thinking about your (real) Mum
Do what you would have done when your mum was still here – spend some time with her. Put aside a little time in your day for you and your mum. You know, it isn’t all about being able to call or see or email (or skype, facebook, or tweet) the people we love. Just because you can’t do any of these things, it doesn’t mean you can’t connect to her. Where you actually connect to people from is your heart. And not being able to hug, kiss, or call them doesn’t change that. So take some time to pull out some pictures and go through some memories and bring them into your present through your memories and your heart.
Now what I have just written might be something you’ve read a million other times but I need to add a piece here. We often get told to focus on just the good memories….but I don’t agree. Does that sound a bit wrong to you? If so then keep reading as this bit is definitely for you. Here is the problem with focusing just on the good memories and the wonderful things about your mum: quite often after someone we love has died we can tend to turn them into some kind of angel. Does that sound familiar? Have you watched someone take a person that they have lost and twist and turn them into some perfect ideal not-quite-real image. We get encouraged to focus on the best of the person and the happy memories…but if that side of them is all you are remembering then you aren’t quite remembering them, are you? The thing is that the people who love us best are the ones who know the very best and the very worst about us. If you were to call my mum right now and ask about me you wouldn’t just hear about how wonderful I am. Nope, you definitely would be getting a more balanced perspective on me than that. 😉 When you try to imagine your mum or anyone close to you as just being one-lovely-positive side and nothing else you actually need to take a few steps back from them to be able to do it. And you need to squint. Really, really hard. And if you are stepping back and squinting and trying to imagine them as something they weren’t really then you will absolutely feel separated and disconnected from them….because you are thinking of someone else entirely.
So get real about your mum. When you’re thinking about her and going through pictures make sure you’re not just thinking about the good memories and the good bits of her. Think about the annoying stuff as well. The more you can think about the real actual person, the easier it is to connect to them, to remember them, to love them.
Most people have no idea how much their romanticising of the person they have lost separates them and adds to their pain and feelings of loss.
And, as you’ll read in most of my blogs, it’s important to be ok with what you’re feeling……..or not feeling. Telling yourself you should or shouldn’t be feeling a certain way, and should or shouldn’t be thinking certain things adds much more than you realise to your experience of grief. You know the very best thing you could give your mum for mother’s day? The gift of you making the most of this life that she has given you.
As always, I am here for any questions/comments you have.
All this talk of mums has got me thinking about mine (who is very much still alive and well) so here is my favourite photo of her and I from when I was little. I’m the blond one. 😉