Dealing with loss on Mother's Day and how to help others who are grieving

Mother's Day can be an especially difficult day for anyone grieving the loss of a loved one. Here are some steps you can take to help yourself and others get through it.

Mother's Day is a joyous occasion for many, but for those who have experienced loss, it can be particularly painful. If you’re struggling with the loss of a loved one this Mother's Day, or know someone who is, then these steps could help make a difficult day that little bit more bearable.

Dealing with loss this Mother's Day

1. Allow yourself to feel sad

Many people adopt faking happiness as a coping strategy, but it’s important to realise that allowing yourself to feel that sense of loss is okay, and letting out emotion can actually be much better for your health than holding it in.

Even though other people around you might see Mothers Day as a ‘happy’ day, it doesn’t have to be for you. If you want to feel sad, feel sad. Or if you’d rather just see it as an ordinary day, that’s completely fine too. Don’t feel pressurised to conform to a collective mood of happiness just because the calendar tells you to.

2. Take care of yourself

Getting enough sleep (opens in new tab), keeping hydrated (opens in new tab), being active and eating healthy (opens in new tab) are difficult tasks to balance when you’re experiencing low mood. Try anyway, and if you have a late night or end up eating a bit too much junk food one day, just focus on improving the next day rather than beating yourself up. 

According to Psychology expert, Dr Caroline Harris: ‘Self-care is often the first thing to go when mood drops or anxiety levels rise. It’s important to give yourself permission to self-care and even better make sure it is in place before these events occur.’

Set small goals. An act as simple as walking around the block is a huge achievement that your mind and body will thank you for.

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3. Reach out and seek emotional support

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s no shame in reaching out for support. 

Dr Harris adds: ‘Stigma is a massive issue which prevents people from reaching out. However, people often find when they start opening up to others start to share similar experiences.’

If talking to friends and family isn't enough, then consider some professional support services. Cruse Bereavement Care (opens in new tab) offer a free helpline on weekdays, while the Samaritans (opens in new tab) are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also book an appointment with your GP to discuss alternative therapies.

There are also self-help apps, such as My Possible Self, which allow you to track your mood. The app additionally helps you manage feelings of loss, worry and anxiety through various online sessions.

Tips for helping a loved one dealing with loss:

1. Reach out with a thoughtful gesture

Send them a card or text, or go a step further and give them a call to let them know you're thinking of them. Make sure they know that you'll always be there to listen.

2. Dedicate an activity to their loved one

Choose an activity that will help them feel connected to their loved one. This could include sharing memories from when they were alive. You could also actively do an activity in their honour, such as a hobby they loved or taking a trip to one of their favourite places.

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Tips for supporting a child dealing with loss:

1. Read to them

If the kids are young, spend quality time with them by reading them stories that they used to read with their mother.

Read more: Helping your child to grieve

2. Show them how to embrace their emotions

Remind them it’s okay to miss their mum and cry if they need to. You could also explain that this is a day to share and talk about good memories of her, by breaking out the photo album and reminiscing with them. Let them know it’s okay to feel good, too, when thinking about her.

3. Encourage them to use the day to honour their mum

Teach them to save Mothers Day as a day for the whole family. Suggest activities that their mum used to enjoy, or ones that will evoke positive memories. Help them feel closer to her by taking them to one of her favourite places. Encourage them to bring a special memento that they can leave at the site. 

Freelance Lifestyle Writer

Niamh McCollum is a freelance lifestyle writer who has written for Future titles GoodTo and Marie Claire UK, plus the Irish Independent. The Dublin-based journalist specialises in stories 

affecting families - from health updates, to the freshest parenting debates and celebrity announcements.