Mother’s Day for estranged mothers: Tending your heartache

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

mother's day for estranged parentsIt’s here again. Mother’s Day, arriving like a bunch of wilted flowers on a day you’d rather skip. You’re not up for it. Are any of us up for it? Us mothers whose children don’t want us?

I know, I know. You’re used to me coming up with something happy and bright. Some soothing words. A plan to get through the day and to transcend its sadness.

Well, I do. I have. I will.

But it’s okay to feel sad or angry or tired too. It’s okay to mourn the loss, to wish things were different, and admit you don’t like Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day for estranged mothers: Tending the heartache

Mother’s Day for estranged mothers oftentimes comes with expectations. The day isn’t yours alone. For many of us there are other people—other sons and daughters, a spouse, other family members—who want us to be okay. They want to honor us on Mother’s Day. And some of us won’t feel good about ourselves if we don’t let them. If this is you, or even if you’re all alone for Mother’s Day, take the time to tend your heartache.

In acknowledging and tending to our hurt, we honor ourselves. That might then free us up to enjoy the way our loved ones want to honor us. Or to simply enjoy the day.

I’m not one to wallow. For many of us, wallowing isn’t practical. Follows is a list of ways to acknowledge the pain of estrangement on Mother’s Day in brief but meaningful ways—so you can then get on with your day. Use my suggestions as a jumping off point. You have good ideas and usually know what works best for you.

Use your words. Just identifying your feelings about the situation can help. Take five or ten minutes with pen and paper to identify how you feel. Don’t worry about thinking every thought through. Just write the words down. Recent studies indicate that just putting your feelings into words can help you feel better.

You might be surprised that after the most obvious words,
ones you didn’t realize come out. mother's day for estranged mothersAcknowledging those feelings might help you to deal with them. For instance, if you would underline “pressured” (as in the picture), you might then drill down. Okay, so I’m feeling pressured. Why? Because everyone else wants me to be okay. They want me to be happy, go to eat, enjoy the flowers they bring. They’re tired of everything being about the estrangement, etc. Then you can decide what to do with that feelings.

I’m using that example because it’s one I’ve felt. Identifying the feeling allowed me to then realize why, and decide whether to bow to that feeling. For me, I did want to be okay for everyone. I did want those who honored me to know I appreciated them. Drilling down like that helped me to put on a happy face. And you know what? It was okay. There have been studies about how our actions can lead to the feelings we’re trying to portray. Besides, the day passes as days do. The hoopla ends The next day begins.

Maybe identifying that you feel pressured leads to a decision that’s right for you. My solution won’t fit everyone. Maybe you tell everyone you’re not up to celebrating Mother’s Day just now, and that you’re going away for the weekend. One client with a son who is semi-estranged decided this solution was best for her. Making a decision and then acting on it can be such a positive thing.

Perhaps you enlist the help of others to come up with a new tradition for the day. Or you brainstorm some other way to deal. It’s about recognizing your feelings and taking action to let those feelings help you—not about repressing them.

Honor the missing. In another article I wrote about holidays and how to manage them, I spoke of setting out a carved wooden bird my estranged son once gave me. Maybe you do something similar. Or maybe you talk to other family members, and allow them to express their sadness or anger or frustration, too.

Many of us have mothers we miss on Mother’s Day. For estranged mothers, the love we feel for our own mother or motherly figures needn’t be overshadowed by a son or daughter’s rejection. Could you set out a photograph of your deceased mother and/or grandmother—or honor them in other ways?

Most holiday traditions involve special foods, many that are family recipes we cook and eat only on those special days. Mother’s Day seems an appropriate time to acknowledge family recipes. Maybe instead of going out, we could try to recreate a family recipe—and preserve it for future generations. Doing so is another way to honor the ones we miss.

How else might you honor those who are missed on Mother’s Day? For estranged mothers, it’s important to come up with a useful plan.

Treat yourself well. As mentioned above, you have to do what’s right for you. If that means you don’t celebrate Mother’s Day this year, that’s okay. Recognize what you need and honor yourself in that way.

Other ways to treat yourself well might involve getting a manicure, haircut, or a new outfit. If that helps you feel better, then by all means, do it.

One mother said she would be getting a massage. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? And with a massage, there is usually soft music—and not a lot of expectation for conversation. Good choice.

Maybe you get yourself a helpful gift. My book is a good choice!

Maybe you take a hike in nature, or sit by a pond and feed the ducks. Getting out in nature can be so calming.

More ideas on Mother’s Day for estranged mothers

  • Eat well (try a new food!).
  • Wear perfume.
  • Take a nap.
  • Sip a flavored coffee.
  • Get yourself a scented lotion—and use it.
  • Light candles.
  • Drink an expensive wine.
  • Use the day to plan a trip.
  • Drive to the country.
  • Walk a city block.
  • See a play.
  • Go to the movies.
  • Play a board game.
  • Go to the zoo.
  • Cuddle your dog.
  • Dote on a friend.
  • Buy a new rug.
  • Clean your mirrors—and smile at your reflection.
  • Try some aromatherapy in a new easy aromatherapy diffuser. Have you seen those?
  • Shop for yourself. Here’s Amazon’s Home Page so you don’t have to go out.
  • Sign up for a new TV channel.
  • Pull a few weeds, and imagine clearing out the garden of your life.
  • Listen to feel-good music.

What will you do to help yourself?

What will you do to acknowledge your feelings, tend your heartache, and treat yourself well for the holidays.

It helps to express your thoughts. Maybe your ideas can help others, so leave a comment here. It’s your turn now. What can you share?

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