Many people feel grief on Mother’s Day. Here’s how to comfort someone who’s struggling with the day
Mother’s Day can be a wonderful occasion to celebrate someone special in our lives. But for some, the day can stir up painful emotions. If you have lost your own mum or child or are struggling to conceive, it can be a day you desperately try to avoid.
And it’s not just the card aisle in supermarkets that alerts us to the date. Marketing emails and gushing social media posts can feel impossible to ignore. How can you best navigate the day? We spoke to grief experts about how to manage your pain or how to best be a comfort for a loved one struggling.
Don’t deny your grief
It's important to give time to your emotions, even the sad and painful ones
It can be easy to try and push feelings of pain or sadness down or even try to put on a brave face for others. But part of the healing process with grief means acknowledging your emotions.
"It can be easy to try and push feelings of pain or sadness down or even try to put on a brave face for others"
Dr Lisa Turner is a trauma expert, founder of CETfreedom, and author of CET Yourself Free. She explains, "Always honour how you feel. It's OK to feel sad that your mum died, or your child. Or that you are struggling to have a child of your own. For so long we've told ourselves that anything but feeling happy and high is unacceptable. But that just does us a disservice. It's OK to feel sad and accept that we're in pain."
Set boundaries with people
If you find yourself going along with plans you don't want to or forcing yourself to participate in social situations that don't serve you, it's fine to set a boundary and be honest with people around you.
Maria Bailey, founder of Grief Specialist CIC explains, "You can simply explain to colleagues or friends that the day is hard for you and leave it at that. You don't have to go into detail. Most people have suffered grief or have someone close to them who has. They should understand."
Unsubscribe from mailing lists
Companies can often fill our inboxes with deals or discounts but they can feel like they practically flood in when it comes to a sensitive date. Thankfully, most companies offer the option to opt out.
"The lead up to Mother's Day can often feel as bad as the day itself," Maria Bailey says. "Alongside the card aisle, we have a ton of emails coming in. I've found the option to opt-out is easy to do. And for many, that small decision can make a big difference."
Don't avoid all triggers
Grief experts warn that trying to avoid all triggers could do more harm than good.
Lisa Turner says, "You can make decisions that will avoid or keep you away from unnecessary pain but you can't avoid all triggers. You have to be OK with moments of sadness. It's important to remember that no one has ever died from crying too much. In fact, people can get physically ill when they try to avoid pain and deny their feelings."
Get out in nature
Going out in nature can be both mentally and physically healing
Don't stay locked up in the house. Going out in nature for a walk is not only good for our mental health but also our physical.
"Staring at a screen all day can trigger anxiety and depression, so getting outside is a way to reset your neurochemicals"
Lisa Turner says, "It's really important to have brain resets throughout the day. Getting outside and looking up at the sky or out to the distance. Staring at a screen all day can trigger anxiety and depression, so getting outside is a way to reset your neurochemicals. I recommend going out alone and with no music or podcasts. Just a mindfulness walk on your own."
Start new traditions to honour loved ones
Just because we have lost a loved one, doesn't mean we don't have cause for celebration. Rather than focus on their passing, we can use the day to honour their lives.
Lisa Turner explains, "My mother passed away and now we like to get together with loved ones on Mothering Sunday or her birthday and tell funny stories about her. My brother found it hard to not have someone to give a present to, so we decided to buy vouchers and donate them to food banks. Just because our mother is no longer with us, doesn't mean we can't encourage others to celebrate the mums in their lives."
Celebrate the mums in all our lives
Use this time to celebrate the mother figures in your life
If you have lost your mother or no longer have a relationship with them, you can use the day to pay tribute to the mother figures in your lives instead.
"If someone is special to you, take the time out to say it"
Lisa Turner says, "Sometimes our friends are like mothers to us. We can mother each other. Perhaps you're close to an auntie or a mother-in-law. If someone is special to you, take the time out to say it."
Don't force someone to cheer up
When comforting a loved one who is grieving, it may feel like your mission is to lift their spirits and put them in a better mood. But Lisa Turner says that that is only beneficial to us, not the person in pain.
"There's nothing wrong with someone being upset or down. The best thing to do is to ask if they want to talk but also be fine with them not wanting to. Some people heal internally. Often when someone is dealing with grief, they don't reach out for help. Instead, it can be better to ask them what you can do to help, as opposed to if you can."
Read more: Mother's Day after miscarriage: How to cope
Read more: How to cope with the loss of a loved one
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