Honouring our Losses on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can be a difficult day.

The reasons are many. Our mom has passed away. We have lost a child or a baby. Perhaps we are estranged from our Mom, or never knew our birth mother. Or, like me, your Mom may have reached a stage in their dementia where they do not know you, cannot have a conversation, or show no resemblance to their former selves.

We may wish things could have been different. We may long for our lost mother or child. We may miss them desperately.

If our relationship with our mother was troubled, we may be revisiting anger, disappointment or wishing we had someone who was the kind of mother we needed and wanted.

What I have found is that even among close family and friends, the kinds of feelings that Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, holidays, birthdays and death anniversaries prompt often go un-shared and unspoken. Our society is not comfortable with loss of any kind, whether connected to someone living, or someone dead. And so, often we push those feelings below the surface, distract ourselves and just keep on going.


What I have found is that if the feelings are there, it helps to find a safe and supported way to allow them to surface and find expression. If you have had a recent loss, it may be all you can do to just get out of bed—or you may just decide it isn’t a day to get out of bed at all. That in itself can be a way of acknowledging the grief.

However, when you are ready, you may find that taking symbolic action provides some focus and empowerment amidst the intense emotion. The emotion will be there and will come out eventually whether we like it or not. Why not release it and give it expression by doing something to honour it? The loss we are honouring is real and important and worthy of our attention, time and empathy.

Here are some ideas:


Write a letter to your mom, or to your child or baby. This can be an expression of love, of what you wished could have been, or, if your Mom is living but unreceptive or estranged, you can write the letter without sending it, expressing your feelings with compassion and honesty. You keep the letter, write it in a journal, or you can bury the letter or burn it (safely) as a way of releasing back to nature what has been expressed.

Light a candle to honour their memory, or to simply bring light to the feelings about your mother, your child or your baby. It is so simple, but can be so powerful.

Write their name in the sand on the beach, write it with stones by the river, or write it with leaves in the forest. Use whatever is handy outdoors.

Give to someone in honour of your Mom, your child or your baby. Perhaps you can support a Mom by contributing to an organization that gives micro-loans to single mothers starting businesses. Or you can sponsor a child through a charitable organization that has integrity and accountability or give to a charity that supports infants and babies.

Create your own simple ceremony. Perhaps you light a candle next to their photograph or a significant belonging of theirs, sit with the feelings that come up, and say out loud, or write down whatever it is that you want to tell your Mom, child or baby, right now.

If you have lost your Mom:

Act on behalf of your Mom. Give to her favourite cause, or do something your Mom would have done for someone who could use a pick-me-up. For example, my Mom often wrote notes of encouragement, baked for people and gave them flowers out of our garden.


Go to visit a place where you remember her best, or where you enjoyed spending time with her. Leave a token in that spot (biodegradable if outdoors) of your presence and your love. It could be a paper heart with her name tied with raffia to a tree, a note tucked in the seat at the movie theatre, a stone thrown in the river, or it could be a bouquet set up in her favourite spot in her house, or a plant in the garden. If she loved to hike or run, do that. If she enjoyed shopping, perhaps you can go to a special store and buy something that reminds you of her.


Take a walk “with” your Mom. Even taking a walk in a place that has no connection to your Mom, if done with intention, can help you to feel close to her. Imagine her walking beside you, or looking through your eyes, and talk to her either silently within, or if you are alone, out loud. I have had wonderful things happen, even through the tears, when I have taken a walk with my lost loved ones.

Wear something that belonged to her for the day—a favourite sweater, scarf or piece of jewelry, for example, or carry with you something that reminds you of her—a significant coin, her hiking pole if you’re hiking, a photograph of her, or wear her favourite flower in your pocket or buttonhole.

2010_07_17_Laura_6813Make her favourite food and enjoy it on your own, or with your family or a friend, or gift it to others. Perhaps serve food in a dish you inherited from her or drink from her favourite mug. Have a toast in her honour.


If Mother’s Day is a difficult day for you, you are not alone. Be gentle with yourself and know that everything you are feeling is normal and okay. My thoughts are with you.

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