When Mother’s Day is Hard, There is Hope

when mothers day is hard

“Mother is a verb. It’s something you do. Not just who you are.” ~ Cheryl Lacey Donovan

The other day, I got an email from a major corporation saying that Mother’s Day is upon us and they recognize it may be triggering for some so they included an option to mute their content until the holiday passes. I was impressed by the sensitivity this business showed. While many of us find Mother’s Day as a cause of celebration, there are also many of us who find this holiday painful–maybe your relationship with your mother (or mother-in-law) is strained; maybe your mother or mother-figure has passed away; maybe she was abusive and/or absent;. maybe you struggle with fertility and this holiday is just one more reminder of what you do not have. Or maybe motherhood is just kicking your trash right now and you are feeling down and discouraged. Regardless of the reason, I want to recognize that Mother’s Day can be filled with painful emotions and memories. 

Here are some suggestions to ease the struggle of Mother’s Day:

  1. Give yourself grace.  You do not need to explain your feelings to anyone–even yourself. You do not need to justify your feelings if this holiday is hard for you. If it is, accept that, and please do not beat yourself up.
  2. Push the snooze button! I suppose part of accepting the difficulties of this holiday includes knowing and navigating potential triggers. Shutterfly sending you promotional information geared towards Mother’s Day may not be the most helpful; so if they offer you an option to snooze those emails…do it this year.
  3. Take a little social media break. Each year, I have to prepare myself for Mother’s Day because I know social media will be inundated with posts about mothers and celebrating motherhood, etc. There have been years where I have allowed myself a break from social media apps that weekend, and that is just fine. 
  4. Explore the reason why. There are several ways to do this. Simply sitting and thinking through, processing your feelings is a great way to begin. Journaling is another powerful way to try to digest or discover the reason behind your feelings. Talk with a friend or a family member. Seek professional guidance and/or assistance by speaking with a counselor. Their fresh perspective can help you see your situation from a different angle and that can be quite advantageous!
  5. Discover other mother figures in your life. If, for whatever reason, you are not close with your own mother or mother-in-law, I urge you to consider who has maybe been a stand-in mother figure or who has had a nurturing role in your life. Instead of focusing primarily on what you do not have, choose to see the other people who have stepped up and stood in when your own blood or relatives did not. 
  6. Express gratitude to those nurturing figures. I started a tradition a few years ago: around Mother’s Day each year, I think about a mother/woman I admire, and I write her a little note and slip it in the mail. I tell her why I am grateful for her, why I admire her, why I hope to be a little more like her someday… and I tell you, this brightens my day and hers! 
  7. Be motherly/nurturing/loving to someone else. I know there are too many of you out there who feel pain each Mother’s Day because your deepest desire is to be a mother yourself. So if you do not have children of your own, be motherLY this Mother’s Day–be kind, be caring, be nurturing, be loving. Maybe you have nieces and/or nephews you can spoil, neighbor children, kids from church or work…whatever it may be, embrace the fact that you can still spread happiness this Mother’s Day despite your difficult circumstances.
  8. Offer camaraderie. If you are struggling with Mother’s Day, a great way to combat the depressive feelings that may accompany this day is to get outside of yourself. You likely know someone else who has a hard time with this holiday. If your friend’s mom recently passed away and you know Mother’s Day will  be hard for her, send her a text, take her a treat, or give her a call to let her know you are thinking of her. Maybe you invite friends with similar feelings over or go out for a fun night so you do not have to be alone. Find camaraderie with people in similar situations to make it through. 

Most importantly, remember you are not alone! There are many who struggle to feel joy on Mother’s day. You are not the only one facing painful feelings this season. Give yourself grace, allow yourself space, explore and feel your feelings and try to process them, strengthen your relationship(s) with motherly figures in your life and express gratitude for them, BE motherly and/or nurturing to others around you, and find camaraderie with those who may share similar sentiments. 

Mother’s Day does not have to be about what you do not have. Instead, it can be a celebration for what you DO have, what you CAN contribute and how you CAN make a difference. Because, after all, you do not have to be a mother to make a difference in someone else’s life! You have goodness to spread around the world, and I hope that you powerhouse women get out there and do it. I know you can.

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.


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Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT

Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.