05/09/2018 14:12 EDT | Updated 05/09/2018 14:13 EDT

When Mother's Day Causes You Pain: What You Can Do To Make The Day A Bit Easier

It can be a uniquely traumatizing time for a lot of people.

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Mother's Day is a happy and celebratory day for a lot of people, and just a blip on the radar for others — but for many people, Mother's Day is a uniquely painful time, one that's made all the more difficult by societal messages that don't acknowledge that reality.

"Those of us who have mothers or children that we are close to forget that this day can be traumatic for women who are estranged from their mother or child, as well as for those who have lost a mother or a child, or are unable to bear a child," Sherry Cormier, a licensed psychologist and author, told HuffPost Canada by email.

For some women, Mother's Day makes them feel sad, or traumatized. For others, the day is one of mixed emotions — which is tough in its own way.

"These days, it's a bittersweet holiday, because now I'm a mom to a two-year-old, but my mom was my best friend so Mother's Day will always stink," Robyn Lanci, who lost her own mother to breast cancer when she was 20, told HuffPost Canada by email.

Here is some advice if Mother's Day is a tough day for you.

Anticipate and prepare

When Mother's Day is hard for someone to get through, it's often because of a loss of some kind — sometimes a death, but other times the loss of a relationship, or of a wish for one.

Anticipating and preparing is key for loss survivors, Cormier says. "Recognize that this day is coming up, and make plans for how you can spend the day in a way that nourishes yourself," she says. "This helps you to avoid being caught off guard when the day arrives and you are filled with immense bereftness but have no plans to cope with it."

Be good to yourself

In the lead up to Mother's Day, take good care of yourself, Karen C.L. Anderson, author of Difficult Mothers, Adult Daughters, told HuffPost Canada by email. This could look different for everyone: it might mean a social media break, time with a friend, or time alone.

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Avoid the card store

Lanci says she avoids the aisle full of Mother's Day cards around this time of year. Her husband buys a card for her to give to her grandmother so she doesn't have to sift through them. "It's been almost 17 years and I still can't bring myself to look at all those 'mom' cards," she says.

If you do need to get a card for someone but want to avoid a similar shopping trip, ask a friend or family member to help you out.

Pass off the present-purchasing duties

Women in particular often find themselves delegated as the default present purchasers in their families. (Something worth pushing back against, if you don't want this role, in general!) But picking out a gift for his own mother is her husband's responsibility, Lanci says.

Say "no" if you need to

There are often family obligations around Mother's Day, and it can be hard to decline those even if you know that you are not up for them. But it's OK to put yourself first, Cormier says.

"This is not the day for you to surround yourself with toxic people or try to shape yourself into a pretzel to accommodate the needs of relatives or friends who may be somewhat mindless about your loss," she says.

If you do want to spend special time with someone in your family, perhaps you can do it after Mother's Day, when you can get together one-on-one and it may be less fraught.

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Know it's different for everyone

"Don't try to make yourself feel a certain way," Anderson says. The day is different for everyone, for a lot of different reasons, and that is OK. "There's simply no 'right' way to deal with the conflicting emotions that Mother's Day brings up," she adds.

And if it's a hard day for a friend or family member, here are some ways you can support her.


Simply being there to hear your friend, and listening to why the day is hard for them, is important, Anderson says. If they are estranged from their mother, let them talk about why without judgment. Or if they don't want to talk about it but do want company, be that person for them.

Don't try to fix it

People can find it hard to understand why a child would be estranged from their mother, but trust that your loved one has their reasons. "Don't try to fix it or suggest she reach out to mom because it's Mother's Day," Anderson says.

"Don't minimize it. Don't say how sad it is, or that it's too bad that she doesn't have a relationship with her mother. No pity, please."

Let them be sad

Sometimes people need to be sad or cry, and letting them do it can be the most loving thing you can do in that moment. "There's no need to cheer her up," Anderson says. "Simply acknowledge her experience and let it be what it is."

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