Despite the media and advertising hype the holiday gets, Mother’s Day isn’t a “mimosas-and-brunch kind of day for everyone“. Mother’s Day is complex and can be a painful reminder for those who are grieving the death or absence of a mother, or for those who have lost a child or pregnancy. This can also be true for those who are struggling to get pregnant, or those who have a complicated relationship with their mother.
The disconnect between grief and joy can feel intensified, especially for those who have experienced a more recent loss. “When grief is most intense, it can be difficult for a grieving parent to ask for support.” Mother’s Day can bring about feelings of sadness, anger, isolation and longing, and yet there are rarely spaces and places for those emotions to be communicated or expressed.
Types of grief
Grief comes in all shapes and sizes. Grief is the natural emotional response that occurs after loss, and yet we are not always sure how to acknowledge our grief during times of supposed celebration. There are many types of grief and the more we understand our grief, the better we can be at creating the conditions for our grief to be normalized and acknowledged.
One of the myths that often surrounds grief is that it follows a series of stages. The Dougy Center explains it beautifully by stating, “While the emotions connected to each stage, including shock, anger, protesting, depression, and acceptance, are valid and common reactions, they don’t unfold linearly. People feel one, all, or none of these emotions over the course of years or at the same time…grief doesn’t unfold in a straight line, but rather ebbs and flows in different ways for everyone.”
Create your own rituals
A mother loss ceremony can help you acknowledge the feelings you might be holding in connection with the loss of a mother, the loss of a child, or your own complicated relationship with motherhood. It could be in connection with a holiday, a significant anniversary, or a meaningful date.
Often, it’s the week leading up to a grief anniversary or significant date that can be the hardest. We suggest taking old rituals and making them new again; if Mother’s Day for you signals a big family meal, perhaps you can take one favourite recipe and invite a few close friends to share it with you. If you imagine spending it at a favourite spot, go there the week before when there’s not the same pressure as a prescribed holiday. Or create a flower mandala with your community and have each flower honour a part of your grief.
As we approach Mother’s Day here in North America, we are offering a free workshop for anyone who is grieving the loss of a mother or child and would like to pre-emptively create the conditions for their grief to be acknowledged. Join us on May 7th at 2pm PT for a free Mother Loss Ceremony where we will guide you through how to create your own rituals to honour whatever emotions you are holding in connection to this day.
Some other ideas to support you
Mother’s Day will likely be difficult for people who are grieving, yet there are ways to create space for our grief so you don’t feel so isolated. Plan ahead and consider how you want to spend the day (and the week leading up to the day), and do things that will connect you to yourself and your grief.
More and more retailers and websites are giving people the option to opt out of potentially triggering notifications. NPR recently shared that “in a year where loss, grief, technology and identity have been at the forefront of the national conversation, the budding trend of email opt-outs is for many both a welcome change and a sign of what may lie ahead.” While opting out of a single email may not make much of a difference, it signals to yourself and to others that this is a difficult time. Acknowledging what is hard for us can validate our experiences and help us process our emotions.
Companies like Canva and Etsy are amongst those sharing messages of support, “We understand that Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some. If you’d rather not receive emails from us about Mother’s Day this year, let us know by removing yourself below. We’ll still keep you in the loop about one-of-a-kind finds we think you’ll love, just without the Mother’s Day messages.”
Plan for self care AND community care
In anticipation of a difficult day, plan ahead. Think about all the things that might offer you support individually and within a community. Plan a solo walk to a favourite spot, book phone calls with friends, create space for your emotions, and leave room for plans to change. You may wake up that day and decide to throw your plans out the window and start over; be gentle with yourself and allow for rituals to adapt and evolve as needed.
“When a daughter loses a mother, the intervals between grief responses lengthen over time, but her longing never disappears. It always hovers at the edge of her awareness, prepared to surface at any time, in any place, in the least expected ways.”
Hope Edelman, Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss
There are more and more people drawing attention to the significant weight Mother Loss can bring, especially surrounding events like Mother’s Day. Find people in your local community to meet up with in person, or join virtual gatherings with leaders in the field. Hope Edelman hosts weekly virtual calls with her Motherless Daughters community, Shae Uisna hosts a Motherless Mother’s Day and we’re hosting a Mother Loss Ceremony ~ Rituals for Mother’s Day Grief, an online event taking place one week before Mother’s Day to prepare you for the week ahead.
Cherish Your Grief
“Grief, I have learned is really just love. It’s all the love that you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”~Jamie Anderson
Create space for your grief and honour it for what it is; a reflection of the love you hold for someone or something. It might be something you are longing for, like a child of your own, or time with someone you lost. Perhaps it’s a memory from your past that you’re holding onto or a wish for the future. However your grief shows up this Mother’s Day, invite it in and set a seat at the table for it.
Hold space for both/and
Mother’s Day can be both sad and joyful, full of grief and gratitude. One of the things we teach when it comes to being ceremonial in our everyday life is to hold space for the polarities. We are not meant to feel one emotion at a time, nor are we meant to follow along a neat and tidy timeline.
Grief is a reflection of the love we hold, and just like love, grief can be simple and complex all at once.
By allowing yourself to feel a range of emotions, and coming up with rituals that support those feelings, you can process your experience in a way that’s meaningful to you. You can also begin to find new ways to walk with your grief as you incorporate your loss into your daily life.
From all of us at Be Ceremonial, we hope you can create a Mother’s Day that is unique to you and your journey. We believe that rituals should be descriptive not prescriptive, and the same holds true for holidays. Find your own path, and honour your grief along the way.