Senior Emotional Health

First Mother’s Day without Mom: How to Handle the Grief

First Mother’s Day without Mom: How to Handle the Grief

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When I was young, my church had the best Mother’s Day tradition for honoring moms. Someone brought a huge box of rosebud boutonnieres, and everyone chose one. Red if your mother was living, white if she had passed on.

I’ll never forget the look on my dad’s face the first time he needed a white one. And just a few years later, I had to wear white myself.

If you’ve been there, you know: It doesn’t matter how old you are—When you lose your mom, you feel like a little child again.

So how do you work through that grief, especially on a day like Mother’s Day? Hopefully some of these ideas will help.

Frontida Assisted Living Facilities provide you with posts like this one to help you live your best life.

Give Yourself Time

Grieving is work, and it’s more like a marathon than a sprint.

You’re fine one minute, and suddenly something triggers a memory, especially on holidays like this.

There’s that emotional cycle: denial, anger, acceptance, depression.

But you’re also physically tired, distracted, your body suddenly fighting all sorts of colds and flus…not helped by the fact that your sleep may be full of strange dreams.

Take it slow.

  • Even when you don’t feel like it, choose healthy foods.
  • Exercise—outside in the sun, if possible.
  • Find friends who’ll let you talk about Mom—and friends who can help you think about something else for a while.
  • Don’t put your grief on a time table. It looks different for everyone.
  • Don’t be ashamed of your tears. They heal.

Wrestling Guilt

At some point we all have regrets: things we did, things we didn’t do. No relationship is perfect.

Unfortunately with grief, those regrets can roll around in our heads till they run us over.

  • Wondering if you did everything you could to care for Mom? Time to phone a friend. Talk through your concerns. You aren’t looking for empty reassurances here, but a balanced perspective—It’s hard to see reality on your own when you’re hurting.
  • Worried because you’re more relieved than sad? If you’ve spent a lot of energy caring for her, that relief makes sense—especially if she had dementia. You had to say goodbye a thousand times, watching the mom you knew slowly slip away. You’re probably suffering from burnout. Take time now to care for yourself.

When You Just Want to Call Her

It’s a good bet Mom was your biggest cheerleader—and now she’s not there to hear. What do you do with all those things you still want to tell her?

  • Buy a journal for a “Dear Mom” Diary…write those thoughts you wish you could express about your day, about the kids, about the latest excitement or the newest dread.

No, you can’t send it to her, but the very act of writing can help you process the pain.

(Yes, you could do it by email if you prefer—just be sure you know who has access to her email—or create another “Mom” account where you can send your thoughts.)

Sharing Her with Others

Memories are meant to be shared.

So gather your family around or visit the assisted living facility where she lived and

  • Share your favorite stories about Mom. Those funny, serious, sad, thought-provoking, and slap-happy moments that live on in your heart.
  • Recount who she was and what she accomplished—those “It’s a Wonderful Life” moments of how she changed the world around her.
  • Pass on any words of wisdom that she repeated regularly. (My mom always said, “Love people and use things. Don’t ever mix that up.” and “The problem with doing nothing is you can’t stop and rest.”)
  • Do something together that you know Mom loved to do.

Mother’s Day Brunch is the perfect time to enjoy your show-n-tell!

Find Yourself Again

If you spent Mom’s last days with her without much time for yourself, revive a hobby of your own that you haven’t done for a while.

Maybe that’s gardening. Maybe it’s reading. Cooking, biking, whittling, dancing…

Whatever it is, give yourself permission to do something you enjoy.

Making Your White Rose Count

On days like Mother’s Day, your loss is even more pronounced. Memories are fresh and maybe even raw.

When it feels good, enjoy a good cry—or a laugh—guilt-free.

Your grief won’t be wrapped up and put away in one day. But there are ways to celebrate your mom’s life and enjoy time with the loved ones still around you. I pray that one of these ideas will help.

So in honor of all those moms who have passed on this year and those who miss them,

Happy Mother’s Day

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, comfort you. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Is there something fun or incredibly wise that your mom always said? Tell us on Facebook.

Meanwhile, if you’re also dreading Father’s Day, check out Surviving Father’s Day When You’ve Just Lost Dad.

Frontida Assisted Living Facilities are here to help with all your senior living needs.

For more help, read these other posts about emotional issues like depression and grief.

Elizabeth Daghfal
• 3 min read

Elizabeth Daghfal is a writer, teacher, speaker, and community volunteer. When she isn't teaching or writing-- Who are we kidding? Her husband and five kids say she's ALWAYS teaching and writing. She has a passion to help people who are struggling and is happy to say her shoulders are drip-dry. Born and raised in the South, she now lives in Wisconsin and loves it--except for the fifteen months of winter. Read more about her at