Mother’s Day: When It Isn’t Filled With Glue and Glitter

by Cindy Cole, LMFT, LPC, Director of Primary and Family Therapy

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. For some, this means tea parties, brunches and handmade gifts covered in glue and glitter. For others, the holiday is bittersweet. Those who have lost mothers, are estranged from mothers, or long to be mothers themselves may struggle with complicated and mixed emotions as the day approaches.

For those who have lost their mothers, grief may resurface as they remember holidays spent together. They carry on traditions while trying not to stare at the empty seat at the table. There may be feelings of loneliness, anger or regret. Some may find themselves wishing they had one last opportunity to tell their mother all the things they wish they’d said. Others might have found a new appreciation for their mother as they feel the void she left in the family. Still others could view Mother’s Day as an opportunity to reflect back on the love they shared with their mother.

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Holidays such as Mother’s Day can be especially difficult for those whose mothers are still alive, but have no a relationship with her. The feeling of being disconnected from a parent, regardless of why that is the case, leaves space for myriad emotions to arise–loneliness, regret, hurt, relief. In some cases, a person may not have closure in this relationship, which can be a re-opening of old wounds along the path towards acceptance and healing. Some people who are adoptees remain conflicted as to how to honor both the birth mother and adoptive mother, or whether or not it’s okay to still feel connected to someone they may never have met.

Women who are longing to be mothers may find themselves experiencing their own longing for a hope unfulfilled. Those who have lost children can have difficulty celebrating their roles as mother, even as they continue to parent other children. Women struggling with infertility may feel resentful or powerless, trying to make sense of their circumstances. They may try to cling onto the hope that something will change and they too will become a mother. Spending the day with family may be a welcome distraction for some and a painful reminder for others.

Mother’s Day, like all holidays, touches each person differently. The relationship between a parent and child is complex; it contributes to the formation of one’s sense of self, ability to develop healthy and trusting relationships with others, and role in the family unit. For those struggling with loss, estrangement and grief, the day can be filled with sorrow. In working through the healing process, many come to find ways to create a meaningful holiday. Some will choose to spend the day reliving memories of times spent together with their mothers. Others may visit with extended family, or friends who have become like family. Still others may choose not to celebrate the holiday, treating it like any other day. Every person has been touched in some way by the relationship with their mother. We can help those for whom this day is difficult by offering our support, giving space to listen, and understanding if the feelings are too difficult to express.

Wishing you peace this Mother’s Day and in the days ahead.

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