Every time I see an advertisement for Mother's Day, I tend to cringe — not because this is a day to shill flowers and jewelry to show mom how much she really means, but because it's a reminder that my own mother isn't around anymore. Celebrating Mother's Day when your Mom is no longer alive is always difficult, and will always be difficult, no matter how many people tell you that it'll get easier. In fact, my grieving comes and goes, which makes me kind of a pain in the ass to be around if there's any sort of trigger. One huge trigger? Those aforementioned Mother's Day ads.
My mom passed away more than 10 years ago, and unfortunately missed a lot of my big events — graduating from college, actually getting a real boyfriend, and eventually marrying that boyfriend. Even though it seems cliche to hear "Oh, she was definitely there during that stuff," I totally did feel a presence. Even stupid stuff, like lingering over something that reminded me of my mom for a second or two longer than usual, was comforting to me. As someone who isn't truly sure on her opinions on what happens after you die, these reminders mean even more, since I wasn't necessarily looking for them. They just kind of happened.
Since I suffered the loss at a pretty young age (it was right before I turned 20), I tried to be a constant support system to the friends and acquaintances who happened to find themselves in the same unfortunate situation during the passing years. After all, that's what truly helped me shortly after it happened — friends who knew exactly how it felt, and offered healthy ways on how to cope.
If your loss is fresh, or if it's been something that's been upsetting you for awhile, here are some ways to avoid the sad-factor that comes with this generally happy and loving holiday.
1. Reach out to other mother figures
Whether it's your mother-in-law, your best friend's mom, or even your dad, it'll make you feel good to share Mother's Day with someone. Chances are, you have a lot of family members who are thinking of your mom right as we speak. After all, she helped raise a pretty amazing kid.
When you celebrate with someone else, it's not so much about not having your mom around for the holidays. It's more of a reminder that the day, in general, is about showing appreciation for someone you love — someone who has made an impact on your life.
2. Visit her
It might be kind of rough to visit the gravesite (or difficult, if you live a distance), but you'll feel better for it when you do. Don't be ashamed to talk to the stone, and don't feel bad if you just can't get the words out and want to stay silent. The important thing is that you have a designated spot to remember all of the amazing memories, and even update her on your life, if it feels right.
Never, ever feel bad about crying. Crying lets the sad out, and you'll feel so much better letting it out than keeping it in.
3. Hang out with your siblings
If you don't get a lot of chances to reconnect with your brothers and sisters, consider going out for a drink. (I'd say dinner, but places might be packed and somewhat sad to witness. This is a good beverage holiday, either alcoholic or non-alcoholic.) It's what Mom would have wanted. Plus, you'll be spending time with someone who knows exactly how you're feeling right now.
Make sure to state your intent before going out, by saying something like, "I want to spend some time with you, and maybe share some good Mom memories." Otherwise, your sibling might be a bit blindsided, especially if they have trouble opening up.
4. Pick up a hobby or craft she was into
If your mom was crafty or enjoyed a particular hobby, consider giving it a try. For example, if she was into tennis and your eye-hand coordination made you fearful of ever trying it, get out of your comfort zone and hit the courts one day. You never know — perhaps the skill is actually genetic.
Knitting, cooking, piano, or even hitting up the library to read a book in a new environment? They're all better activities than feeling sad indoors, and it's a great way to honor your mom.
5. Donate some money to her favorite charity
If you feel left out with the gift-giving, consider dropping some cash on an organization she really believed in. For example, my mom was a teacher, so finding a classroom to support with DonorsChoose.org would be something she would have been truly happy about — plus, it'll make a difference in the world. I mean, giving a child some art supplies? The benefits will last way longer than the floral arrangement you would have picked up.
6. Ask your dad for some fresh "mom stories"
If your dad is still around/didn't end things with your mom in a sad way, this is a good holiday to have him open up and tell you some things about your mom that you never knew before. When we're kids, we usually get the "mommified" version of Mom. When we're adults, we're more open to hear the fun stories. The ones that happened before she was Mom. The moments that kind of rounded her personality, and made her who she was.
Chances are, there are a lot of amazing Mom-moments (Momoments? Let's make this phrase happen) that you might have had yourself. It'll help remind you that while she's not physically present, a lot of her quirks are still alive in you.
If the loss is still new, remember not to resent the holiday all together — after all, moms should be appreciated for all of the hard work they do. Try your hardest to save the negative thoughts and feelings to yourself (such as, don't retort with "at least your mom is still around" to the friend who vents about a recent disagreement, even though oh my gosh, what you'd give to have another petty fight with your mom about things that don't really matter). Nine out of 10 times, your friends don't know what to say to you, both on the holiday and during every situation that involves a mom-related conversation. In fact, some friends might be so awkward about the topic that they'll disengage entirely, which is a sad yet real scenario.
No matter what, one thing will always remain the same. The love that you and your mom shared will last forever, and the lessons she's instilled in you will probably be passed onto your own kids someday, if you choose to have them. Next time you're down, remember how lucky you were to be related to, loved by, and raised by such a fantastic and beautiful woman. No matter what, she's truly celebrated every day in your eyes.