You can run but you can’t hide …
There’s no avoiding Mother’s Day. Try as you may, it’s near impossible to sidestep the pastel-coloured supermarket displays overflowing with Lindt chocolates, special offer Prosecco and Dirty Dancing DVDs. Even if you skilfully navigate the weekly shop without so much as a Belgian chocolate seashell, your email inbox probably won’t be so kind. Keen not to let an opportunity pass them by, those marketing masterminds at all your favourite brands will be bombarding your emails with messages telling you to “Keep mum about our Mother’s Day gifts” and “Treat your mum this Mother’s Day”.
Isn’t it just another day?
If you can make it through all the other days in the year without your mum then why is this one random Sunday any different? Mother’s Day is just another day on the calendar isn’t it? But for some reason it’s not. For me, there are a few reasons why it’s such a difficult day after losing your mum:
A mild wave of panic washed over me the other day as I saw the John Lewis shop assistant making a beeline for me. I’d just overheard the “We have a great Mother’s Day promotion on at the moment” speech she gave to another customer and I couldn’t face her reeling it off to me too. I didn’t want her to offer to gift wrap the perfume. I didn’t want her to ask if I’d already got my mum a card. I didn’t want her to say it was a great gift and that she was sure my mum would love it.
Why? Not because it was a tragic reminder of watching my mum slowly slip away to cancer, as you may think. No, it was because I couldn’t handle the awkwardness we would both feel if I had to explain the perfume wasn’t for my mum. I didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer and tell her I have no need to buy a present because my mum is dead, but nor did I want to plaster on a fake smile and play along with the charade, agreeing that my mum would love the gift.
I should be so lucky (lucky, lucky, lucky)
You know that old philosophical question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Well the modern-day equivalent is definitely: If you do something without sharing it on social media, did it really happen?
Mother’s Day is prime Facebook fodder: The perfect excuse to Instagram photos of the flowers you bought, tweet a quote about the world’s best mum and Snapchat the family together at Sunday lunch. And, well, quite simply, I get jealous. I get jealous that I’m missing out. I get jealous I can’t celebrate with my mum. I get jealous at people’s naïvety, thinking life will always be that way.
Part of what makes Mother’s Day so hard for me is that I find myself hurt by the nonchalance of everyone’s social media posts. Do they realise how lucky they are to be able to give their mum a hug and tell her that they love her?
Forgetting to forget
With all the advertising around Mother’s Day, the chances are that at some point you will have a fleeting moments of forgetfulness, swiftly followed by a huge moment of remembering.
What do I mean? I’m talking about catching yourself thinking “I must remember to get some flowers for mum for Mot….. Oh, wait!” or seeing that Facebook post about funny Mother’s Day cards and thinking “Haha! That one’s so funny, I’ll get that for m… Oh, wait!”
When these things happen, they’re like a reminder that you haven’t quite made the adjustment – that your brain still hasn’t quite processed the fact that she’s not around. They feel like a cruel trick, designed to remind you all over again about what’s happened.
Like a single person on Valentine’s
The first Mother’s Day after mum died, I felt as if each and every advert was screaming ‘YOU HAVEN’T GOT A MUM ANYMORE!’ directly at me. I wanted to ignore anything and everything to do with it, but as time has gone on, to not mark it seems a waste.
I suppose I feel torn: Part of me feels I should use the date as a chance to celebrate the relationship I had with my mum. The other part of me feels I should treat it with mild contempt, like a single person on Valentine’s Day, so that I don’t have to deal with the emotions it drags up. I suppose it comes down to one simple question: Is there still a purpose to Mother’s Day once your mum has died?
4 years on – 5 top tips
This year marks my fourth Mother’s Day without a mum. It’s still not a welcome date in my diary, but I am slowly becoming able to pick out the good parts and leave more and more of the sadness that it brings with it. I know firsthand that it’s not always easy, particularly in those first few years, which is why I’ve come up with five tips for surviving Mother’s Day when you don’t have a mum:
1.Treat yourself as you would treat your mum
Give yourself a break! Stop thinking you have to have it all under control or that you’re being silly if all this Mother’s Day stuff is getting to you. Why not use today as an excuse to treat yourself enough for the both of you? Whether it’s going for a massage, buying a huge bouquet of flowers, enjoying breakfast in bed, or getting dressed up to go out for a special lunch? Use Mother’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate the fact that you’re the daughter of someone pretty freaking amazing and, whatever you do, remember you’re doing it for the both of you.
2.Take a trip down memory lane
The great thing about memories is that nobody can take them away from you. They live on long past the moment, sometimes even outlasting the person that you shared them with. So why not use Mother’s Day as a chance to remember your mum and all the good times you shared? Go through old photos or call up your brother and laugh about the time she had so much Baileys one Christmas that she tried to carve the turkey upside down (or maybe that was just my mum!) If you want to get out and about, why not visit her favourite place or go for a meal at her favourite restaurant? It can be quite comforting to go somewhere you once shared happy times together.
3.Feel the feels
If you want to cry, then cry. I’ve found that if I force myself to push my feelings away, they just come back and pull me in further. Sometimes it’s best just to get it out of your system. So let yourself feel the feels. If you’re angry that you haven’t got a mum anymore, then be angry. If you’re sad that you’ll never get to see her again, then be sad. If you’re jealous of everyone else that’s taking their mum out for lunch, then be jealous. The chances are that once you give yourself permission to cry and scream or simply to mope around the house, you’ll find that it won’t be long before you stop. You’ll stop, you’ll wipe your tears and you’ll go and carry on with your day. Not because you have to, but because you’re ready to.
4. Talk it out
What would you be telling your mum on Mother’s Day if she were still around? What are the things you appreciate her doing for you over the years, the character traits you admired in her and the funny moments that always make you laugh when you think about them? All of these things are STILL COMPLETELY VALID. Don’t be afraid to think about, write a letter to her about or plain-old speak out loud about them to her. Even though she is ‘somewhere up there’, you can still let her know how much you love her.
5.Nothing’s ever so bad that it can’t get any worse
Mother’s Day can make it feel near impossible to think about anything other than what (or rather who) is no longer around. It’s as if the day is purposely designed to remind you what’s now missing from your life. Now it may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by what you don’t have in life, take a second to think about all the things you could still lose. When you think about how awful it would be to lose your sister, your job, your house or your health, you suddenly become really grateful for the fact they’re still around. So if you’re feeling sorry for yourself today, try switching your focus from what you don’t still have to what you do still have.