What 9 Women Do On Mother’s Day When It’s Emotionally Hard For Them

Hannah Burton/Bustle

For many, Mother's Day is a happy day, filled with celebrations of all kinds. For others, it can be a little more complicated. For women who have lost their moms, don't have a relationship with their moms, have struggles with fertility, or otherwise have a hard time on Mother's Day, it can be a period of conflicting emotions. Some people choose to spend the day alone; others engage in self-care, or create new traditions with friends or other support systems. There's no one "good" way to take care of yourself on Mother's Day — whatever you choose to do is a valid and important response.

If being around families at brunch is emotionally difficult for you, then not going to brunch is a perfectly good choice. If being alone, conversely, makes the day harder, then you can surround yourself with your support network, whether that's friends, family, or any combination thereof. For these nine women, different coping mechanisms and self-care techniques have worked to help them move through the day throughout the years, because no one method is a cure-all, and everyone's experience on the second Sunday in May is different. Read on to hear what nine women who have a tough time on Mother's Day do during the holiday.

1Gabby

Wikimedia Commons
I used to have a really hard time with Mother's Day, the first few years we were estranged. My mother was always very into putting on a big (false) show about how much we loved each other on Mother's Day — so once we stopped talking, I'd be both angry at those memories, and sad looking at all the families out and about who at least appeared to be happy.
I started going to the movies on Mother's Day afternoon. You are almost guaranteed to find no families celebrating in a movie theater (especially if you make sure to pick a family-unfriendly film), and I found that friends who just lived far away from their families were always happy to come with me. I'd load up on every kind of ridiculous movie theater snack, and by the time the movie was over, all the Mother's Day festivities were over. In more recent years, I just ignore it, and do regular weekend things, but the movies were a lifesaver for me in the beginning.

2Mary

Library of Congress
My mom passed away many years ago. Mother's Day is always difficult for me. It has become easier since I had children. Some years I mourned all day, but that is something I know my mom would not want me to do. I realized that my being sad affected my children, so am became more focused on being their mom as opposed to thinking about how much I miss mine.

3Abbe

Wikimedia Commons
[My mother and I] were estranged at the time of her death. She was emotionally manipulative most of her life and when I made a decision to separate myself from it forever, she blew up at me, screaming, “You are the worst daughter in the world and I wish I never had you.” That was the last thing she said to me before hanging up the phone and about a year later, she was dead.
Her death brought me some relief, but every Mother's Day that passed after that was truly painful, as I felt her presence in her absence and was not just upset, but angry. I began to walk in the neighboring state park, and found the fresh air was good for clearing my head, finding space and silence in which I could think about my mother and — in some cases — even “talk” to her. At first, this felt nuts. But it was soothing.
So for the last few Mother’s Days, before my own son takes me to brunch or I meet up with some of my other “motherless” pals for some champagne and bitching, I walk those paths in the park and continue to “make peace” with my mother, who she was, what her foibles were, and what I lost. It always makes me feel better, even if I cry while I’m walking.

4Sarah

Wikimedia Commons
I lost my mother to cancer in March of 2004 — two months before Mother's Day. Two weeks later, I discovered I was pregnant. I had been trying to conceive for eight or nine months to no avail. To some extent, while the grieving is much less severe in recent years, it still is a bittersweet day for me.
For those who have lost their moms recently, I strongly suggest spending Mother's Day with friends — perhaps, even take a short trip somewhere to take your mind out of that space as best as possible. The key to getting through that day for me was to distract myself as much as possible. You will have constant reminders throughout the year of your mom — through photographs, memories, places. On a day that's specifically devoted to honouring [sic] our mothers, if you have lost your own mom, it's helpful to do something that makes you feel good: pamper yourself with some spa services, leave town on a mini vacation, spend the day with a good network of friends.

5Karen

Wikimedia Commons
The fact is, our culture isn't comfortable with women who have chosen not to be in contact with their mothers. Take especially good care of yourself on Mother's Day (and in the days leading up to it and the days after). This may look like taking a break from social media and the avalanche of "I love my Mom" posts. It may look like going for coffee or a glass of wine with a friend. It may look like being by yourself and [marathoning] your favorite show. Don't try to make yourself feel a certain way. Don't beat yourself up... or, if you find yourself beating yourself up, have a good laugh. There's simply no "right" way to deal with the conflicting emotions that Mother's Day brings up, and ALL of your feelings are valid.

6Judy

Zazzle
Let's be honest — the first few years, it's kinda awful, especially on social media. You're seeing Facebook posts about family brunches and dinners, your friends are on Instagram with their mothers, they're writing these nice tributes — it really underscores that you don't have the opportunity to physically be there with your own mother anymore.
However, I personally think it's a bit maudlin to post a "My mom's not with me anymore" message on social media on Mother's Day — why make others feel guilty about being able to spend time with their mother, even if you can't? So I've learned to just stay off social media on Mother's Day — and the day after — to avoid all of that, and allow others to enjoy sharing their celebrations publicly, while I'm doing my remembrances privately.

7Paige

Wikimedia Commons
My mom died eight years ago. Her funeral was on Mother’s Day, which also happened to be her birthday weekend that year, so it is always a bittersweet time for me now. I don't even walk down the card aisle at the drugstore this time of year, to be honest. My tip for others in a similar situation is to make plans on Mother’s Day with friends who have also lost their moms, and do something fun together: go to a movie, take a walk or bike ride, go shopping. I would avoid going out to eat though, because lots of families are out celebrating the day. One year, a girlfriend and I got concert tickets and really splurged. Time to create new traditions.

8Helen

Zazzle
I lost my mother to cancer nine years ago, a couple months before my twins were born. Mother’s Day since then has always been difficult. Usually I wake up and get a good cry out of my system. I think of my mother every single day so this day is no different that way.
I also find it difficult in the days before Mother’s Day because I see all the promotions in stores and I don’t have a living mother to buy a card or gift for. This year I bought myself a Mother’s Day gift, a mug with a funny saying about coffee. Basically I keep as busy as possible under the guise of celebrating myself as a mother, but secretly just waiting for the day to be over.

9Jennifer

Miami U Libraries/Wikimedia Commons
It’s been seven years since my mom passed, and she had Alzheimer’s disease for 13 years prior to that — so it’s been a long time since I have been without the Mom I knew growing up. But things change, and even late into the disease, my brother and I would always celebrate Mother’s Day with a nice visit and lunch with Mom. Being together was all that mattered.
For Mother’s Day, I’ll post a photo of us together or wear a piece of her jewelry or buy her favorite flower — a gardenia — for my apartment as a way to celebrate her. I’ll also spend time with the women in my life who are inspirational. Now that I’m a stepmom, I’ll be with my young daughter, see my mother-in-law who is very special to me, or call my aunt who lives across the country and has been a mother figure to me, and wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

If you're struggling with figuring out a plan for Mother's Day, remember that you're not alone, and that it's not necessary to have it all figured out. Your emotions are important, and whether you choose to deal with them by creating new traditions or simply taking a day to be alone, it's important that you do what feels good to you.