Thursday, December 2, 2021

Mother’s Day Without A Mother

Ask the Life Coach

Photo by Mershon Niesner | Last photo taken of Winnie Horn with her daughter, Mershon.


Dear Coach,

I lost my mother a few years ago and I’m struggling as Mother’s Day approaches. 

Since you’ve written a book about mother loss, I thought you might have some suggestions on how to get through this day.


Motherless Daughter



Dear Motherless Daughter,

I’m not surprised that you’re not looking forward to Mother’s Day this year – or any year. I’ve been motherless since I was eight and I still don’t look forward to Mother’s Day. Even when my children were young and celebrated me with handmade cards and burnt toast, I still felt sad that I wasn’t able to personally celebrate with my mom. 

When I was a kid, my dad and I planted window boxes for my mother on Mother’s Day. The colorful boxes sat under the two windows at the front of our modest, post-war bungalow in Nebraska. Flowers have always reminded me of my mother – from the pink carnations on her casket to the bachelor buttons and multi-colored zinnias she planted in our backyard.

I’ve had sixty-six Mother’s Days to learn how to survive the day in the healthiest way possible. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

  • Plan ahead for how you’ll spend the day. Pre-COVID, my husband and I took the Marco Island Princess Lunch Cruise on Mother’s Day. Balmy weather, beautiful scenery, the movement of the boat, and someone besides me preparing lunch all made for a lovely day and took my mind off the sadness.
  • Do something to honor your mother. In my gardening days, I frequently planted a rose bush or other long-lasting flowering plant. Today, I buy “us” a big bouquet of pink carnations or other cut flowers. 
  • Acknowledge your sad feelings. If you’re new to loss, use Mother’s Day as a time to tell your mother-story to a trusted friend or share your sad feelings with someone you love. You may want to journal your feelings. Be honest when someone asks, “How are you?” 
  • Stay away from triggers. It’s hard to avoid the hype for Mother’s Day – ads for gifts, card displays, social media posts of happy mothers and daughters. Don’t fixate on them. Move along. You can be glad for those who are celebrating without immersing yourself in situations that tap into sadness. 
  • Celebrate the mothers in your family. My children send me Mother’s Day cards and I, in turn, send cards to my daughters, stepdaughters, and daughter-in-law. Even if it’s a difficult day for me, I’m thankful they did not grow up motherless. My mother also grew up without a mother (hers died when she was three), so I’m particularly grateful to have broken the cycle with my children.
  • Stop anticipating disaster. Sometimes the anticipation of Mother’s Day is worse than the actual day. That’s how COVID-Christmas was for me last year. Anticipating the holiday away from family was terrible – the actual day, not so bad. The lesson? Tell yourself it’s just another day – one day out of 365. Don’t succumb to the “ain’t it awful” syndrome. 

If you’re a mother, Happy Mother’s Day! If you’re not, Happy Sunday!



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