Grief on Mother's Day

17th March 2023 12:00

17th March 2023

Grief is different for every person and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Likewise, there is no right or wrong way to spend Mother’s Day when your mother figure is no longer here. Some may choose to remember their mother figure on this day, whereas others may choose to avoid the frequent reminders.  

We’ve put together some ideas for when you are grieving your mum on Mothers’ Day. Not everything will suit every person so don’t worry if something is not for you, these are just some things others have found helpful. Please be gentle with yourself and do whatever you need to do on this day. 



If you expect that Mother’s Day is going to be a challenging day, then you can plan ahead. Planning gentle activities for the day may help the time pass better. You may want to spend the day with loved ones or spend time alone. If you are worried about what conversations may come up, plan what you might say in those circumstances. Any plans you do make don’t have to be rigid, you can check in with yourself and change them as necessary. Sometimes no matter how much we plan, something may take us by surprise. Remember that it’s ok to feel whatever emotions arise for you.  


Find ways to honour your mum 

You may want to take some time to remember your mum on this day. You may choose to incorporate her into the day in a way that feels right for you. Whether this is lighting a candle, buying her favourite flowers, planting seeds to later watch them bloom, visiting her grave, listening to her favourite music, or just taking a moment to have her in your thoughts. You can bring your mum’s memory into the present with you, doing this might bring tears – but that’s ok. Allowing yourself to experience these difficult thoughts and feelings is part of the grieving process.   

Some people find buying a Mother’s Day card and writing a message to their mum comforting. You could choose to leave this card at a special place, keep it in a memory box, or put it in the back of a drawer.  

Some people choose to celebrate other special people in their life on this day. For example, a friend, a sister, or father.    


Everyone is different 

People have different ideas about how to do things and this can cause tension in families, when one person’s way of grieving is different to another’s. Acknowledge that people can honour what is right for them, even when it feels strange for you. Having open conversations about your needs, while being sensitive to others’, may result in a happy medium. 


Advert Overload 

With TV and radio adverts, shop window displays, email subscriptions and social media, it can feel as though everywhere you turn you are being confronted with Mother’s Day reminders. This can be very isolating and distressing for some. Do what you need to do to tune this out, if necessary, take a media break and do something for yourself. Or you may find it comforting to look at accounts which are designated to grief – these might validate how you are feeling and make you feel less alone on this day.  


Conflicting feelings 

This day can magnify the uncomfortable and painful emotions that come with grieving. Some may feel sad on Mother’s Day, some may feel happy, some angry, some lonely, and some nothing at all. Mother's Day may be tricky if you wrestle with multiple, often conflicting feelings. In particular, if you are a mother grieving your mother, there can be feelings of sadness and feelings joy or gratitude. It is ok to feel these things at once, one does not cancel out the other. 


Talking to others 

Let people know how you feel, and what is or isn’t helpful for you. Often people don’t know how to act towards a grieving person so they might do things that you find unhelpful or difficult. If you would like to talk and share memories of your mum, let them know. Being open about how they can do things differently might take the pressure off both of you. You don’t need to justify yourself- if people do not understand, it is not your responsibility to make them. 


Be generous with you 

Take breaks when you need them. Plan something nice after something difficult. And allow yourself to feel your feelings, whatever they may be. Days like Mother’s Day can amplify already difficult emotions, which can cause higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. To help with this you can practice relaxation techniques. 


Soothing Rhythm Breathing  

Once you have found somewhere comfortable to sit, place both feet flat on the floor about a shoulder’s width apart and rest your hands in your lap. If you feel comfortable you can close your eyes when practicing this exercise, or you can look down at the floor if you would prefer. Allow yourself to have a gentle facial expression, perhaps a slight smile. 

  1. Gently focus on your breathing. As you breathe, try to allow the air to come down into your diaphragm; feeling the area underneath your ribs move as you breathe in and out. Notice your breathing, and experiment with it. Breathe a little faster, or slower, until you find a breathing pattern that, for you, seems to be your own soothing, comforting rhythm. What you will usually find is that your breathing is slightly slower and deeper than normal. Try to ensure that the breaths in and out are smooth and even. 

Continue to focus on your breathing. Notice the breath coming in, down into the diaphragm and then moving back out. Sometimes it’s useful to focus on the point just inside the nose or mouth, where the air enters and leaves. Focus on this for a little while.  

  1. Next, turn your attention to your body. Sense the weight of your body resting on the chair and the floor underneath you. Allow yourself to feel held and supported, in the present moment.

It is perfectly ok for your mind to wander, that’s what our minds do. Just try to notice when your mind wanders off, with a curiosity about where your mind has gone, and then gently guide your attention back to an awareness of your body and breathing, as best as you can. 

  1. To complete this practice you might like to wiggle your toes and fingers gently, slowly open your eyes if you have closed them and bring yourself back to the present moment, re-focusing on the room around you.


Restful walking meditation: 

With walking, we have the opportunity to be in our bodies in a somewhat different way than when sitting or lying down. We can bring our attention to our feet and feel the contact of the foot with the floor or ground with every step.  

Before you begin your meditation, find a quiet space to walk. It could be outdoors, or in a hallway, or even a large room, walking back and forth.  

  1. As you begin, walk at a natural pace. Place your hands wherever comfortable: on your belly, behind your back, or at your sides.

If you find it useful, you can count steps up to 10, and then start back at one again. If you’re in a small space, as you reach ten, pause, and with intention, choose a moment to turn around. 

With each step, pay attention to the lifting and falling of your foot. Notice movement in your legs and the rest of your body. Notice any shifting of your body from side to side. 

Whatever else captures your attention, come back to the sensation of walking. Your mind will wander, so without frustration, guide it back again as many times as you need. 

Particularly outdoors, maintain a larger sense of the environment around you, taking it all in, staying safe and aware. 

  1. Now for a few minutes, expand your attention to sounds. Whether you’re indoors, in the woods, or in a city, pay attention to sounds without labelling or naming, or getting caught up in whether you find them pleasant or unpleasant. Notice sounds as nothing more or less than sound.
  2. Shift your awareness to your sense of smell. Again, simply notice. Don’t push or force yourself to feel anything at all, just bring attention to the sense of smell, whatever you discover.
  3. Now, move to vision: colours and objects and whatever else you see. Patiently coming back each time something grabs your attention, or even if something needs addressing, like avoiding an obstacle. Staying natural, not overly rigid, not daydreaming and drifting, but with sustained awareness.
  4. Keep this open awareness of everything around you, wherever you are. Nothing to do, nothing to fix, nothing to change. Fully aware, and walking.
  5. In the last moments, come back to awareness of the physical sensations of walking, wherever else your mind found itself throughout the practice. Notice your feet again touching the ground. Notice again the movements in your body with each step.

When you’re ready to end your walking meditation, stand still for a moment again. Pausing, choose a moment to end the practice. As you finish, consider how you might bring this kind of awareness into the rest of your day. 

If you are struggling you can: 

Call Cruse Bereavement Helpline on 0808 802 6161 

Call Samaritans on 116 123 

Text SHOUT to 85258. This is a free 24/7 crisis text service run by Shout.