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How to cope on Mother's Day without Mum

16th June, 2024

7 years. 380 weeks. 2,660 days. This year will mark my eighth Mother’s Day without my mum, Joanne. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat and reflected on my thoughts around this time of the year, or even about my mum in particular. Each day has a cloud overhead, and each happy moment is never truly the same again, but her death doesn’t suffocate me anymore. I sit with my grief, I’ve accepted it as being a part of me, and I’m continuing to build a life around the hole inside me.

But this year feels different. Because this year I’ll become a mum for the first time. And I’ve never felt so close and yet so far away from her. I’ll be honest, I’d been dreading this since the day my mum died. How do I become a mum without my own mum here? But throw an unexpected pregnancy in the mix, and I’ve had no choice but to face her absence head on.

So, this year Mother’s Day will come with a whole new host of feelings and emotions. But that’s the same as every year, right? Because as each year passes there are new milestones and life events that you wish you could share. You get older, your families change or grow, you move cities - or even countries - and before you know it, the life you live now can feel unrecognisable to the ‘before’.

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If it’s your first Mother’s Day without your mum or mother-figure, you’d be forgiven for expecting the day itself to be the worst part of all. However, usually, it’s the days ahead that can feel like the slow chug as you ride a rollercoaster higher and higher, as each card shop, online advertisement, email, and social media post feels like crossing another chain on the incline. Leaving you hanging on the brink before the inevitable drop. And the drop does come. You can’t avoid it. But the freefall isn’t always what you expect. The day goes by in a blur. A split second and it’s over, the track evens out, and we’re back waiting for the next twist or turn.

Our phones have made it hard to escape the onslaught of advertisement. However, in some ways, the rise of technology has been a blessing. We can choose to unsubscribe, unfollow, remove ourselves from the online world entirely for a full day. We can sit and reminisce over photos and videos, or choose to follow the pages that inspire us or give us strength when we’re feeling down. In fact, that would be one of my top tips in getting through Mother’s Day itself: unplug, disconnect, use it as an opportunity to fill your cup back up.

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There’s something about grief that teaches you more about yourself than you ever believed possible. Use it to your advantage. When the days feel harder than ever, dig deep and go back to the basics. What brings you joy? Cook a delicious meal just for you, go for a walk and breathe - in fact, just breathe - write in your diary, watch your all-time favourite film. Or just take it as a day to process and cry. Life is busy, Mother’s Day can be your opportunity to feel, really feel.

For me, I feel closest to my mum when I’m outside. It doesn’t really matter where, but usually the better the view the closer I feel. I try to fill difficult days in my life, like Mother’s Day, birthdays, death anniversaries, with the things I know she’d enjoy.

Your first Mother’s Day might bring a host of difficult emotions and feelings, and that’s okay. Take it slow. And remember it’s just one day. It will pass, the roller coaster will even out, and you’ll get to enjoy the view again.

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If you’re looking for support this Mother’s Day, there are a host of platforms online offering community and a listening ear. Some groups I’d recommend are The New Normal charity and Talk About Loss, Cruse Care also offering an incredible support network for young adults. Or you can choose to listen to a podcast and have a friendly voice to get you through the day. My podcast, the Dead Parent Club, features a whole host of conversations with other young adults feeling the same way you do right now, as well as dedicated Mother’s Day episodes.

This year, as I picture a future as a motherless mother, I’ll be using the day to celebrate myself. We’ve come so far, and achieved so much. Buy the flowers, eat the chocolate, and love your family. There’s so much to look forward to. Let’s re-frame this day as one where we put ourselves first. And celebrate the love we were so lucky to have.

About the author

Kathryn Hooker is the founder and co-host of the Dead Parent Club, a podcast designed to offer community and support to young adults grieving the loss of a parent.