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How to Have a Happy Mother’s Day When You’re Motherless

Michelle Trachtenberg as Dawn, Kristine Sutherland as Joyce, and Sarah-Michelle Gellar as Buffy on 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

For many of you, today will be a day of brunches, spa treatments, flowers, and getting to show the woman who raised you some love in appreciation for everything she’s done for you. If you have a mother for whom you can do that, DO IT. I mean, you should show her appreciation more often than just today, but do it. Some of us aren’t lucky enough to still have our mothers around. I lost my mother on April 5, 2006.

Whether we’ve lost our mothers, have never met our mothers, or simply don’t have a good relationship with our mothers, Mother’s Day can be fraught for any number of reasons. But it doesn’t have to be. TMS contributor Jessica Stern wrote a great piece yesterday about the importance of foster mothers, highlighting the fact that May is National Foster Care Month, and the ways in which her foster mother was instrumental in making her the person she is today.

There are many ways in which to be a mother. There are also many ways to receive mothering.

Today is my thirteenth Mother’s Day without my mom, and over the years I’ve figured out how to have Mother’s Day not completely suck. While the below is definitely coming from the point of view of having a mother who’s passed away, I hope it’ll also be useful to those of you who don’t have a mother in your life for whatever reason.

The "Baby Mine" scene from Disney's 'Dumbo'

image: Disney

Feel your feelings.

The great thing about Mother’s Day is that it always falls on a Sunday which for most of us means that we’re not working. If you are working, I’d recommend trying to get the day off. Whether you have off or not, give yourself at least some time devoted exclusively to feeling whatever feelings are being stirred up, freely and without judgment.

Too often, when we experience grief, too many of us spend a bulk of our time trying to shove the feelings down just to get on with our day-to-day lives. Thing is, shoving down our feelings can make things suck even more. Having a day devoted to mothers also means having a day devoted to thinking about mothers. The feelings you feel don’t have to be good ones to be honored. Give yourself the time and the space to do that. Whatever your feelings, they’re okay.

Once you’re feeling them, express them however you’re comfortable. Whether it means getting together with a friend or another loved one to talk, writing in your journal, creating art about it, or curling up with a favorite film, TV show, or album, do that. The important thing is to get the feelings out, whether it’s by talking, creating, or having a good cry. Chances are, you don’t get to do that nearly enough. Do it today.

Haley Joel Osment as David and Frances O'Connor as Monica in Steven Spielberg's 'A.I.'

image: Warner Bros.

Remember the good.

While Mother’s Day can be heartbreaking if our moms are no longer with us, it can also still be a day of celebration. It’s likely if you’ve lost your mother and had a good relationship that the anniversary of her passing, or her birthday or some other special day between the two of you might already be a meaningful day during which to remember her. Mother’s Day gives her an extra day!

Maybe you can take the day to go through family albums, or maybe watch something you know she loved, or partake in an activity you know she enjoyed, whether it’s something you did together, or something she did that you want to try your hand at in her honor. If you have siblings, maybe it’s a good day to get together with them and share your memories together. Chances are, even though you were all raised together, you all knew slightly different versions of your mom. Today can be a great day to compare notes, and introduce each other to the Mom only you knew.

The great thing about Mother’s Day is that it’s communal. Everyone is celebrating their mom, and if you know someone else who’s also lost their mom, maybe you can get together with them and spend some time telling each other some of your favorite mom memories.

Whether you lost your mother or not, and whether you had a good relationship with your mom or not, Mother’s Day can also be a great day to celebrate the person your mother helped you become. Think about the things she taught you that you still do, the ways in which she’s helped you shape your view of the world. Think of the positive traits she had that have made themselves manifest in you without you even realizing it.

And if your relationship with your mom was a negative one, use the day to celebrate the fact that you’ve come through that relationship on the other side, and are still standing. The world is full of possibilities, and you are a stronger person because you’ve come through some BS and won.

Michael_Burnham_and_Philippa_Georgiou Sonequa Martin-Green Michelle Yeoh 'Star Trek Discovery'

image: CBS All Access

Remember the other people who’ve mothered you. 

Mother figures abound in our lives, and we often don’t realize just how important they are until we’re left to depend on them to fill that mother void.

Whether you were raised by a single dad who pulled the weight of two parents, had a best friend’s mom who took care of you as if you were her own, or had another person in your lifea teacher, a mentor, a boss, or another relative or family friendwho stepped up into that mom role knowing you needed them, today would be a great day to celebrate them!

Give them a call, or send them a thank you note, and let them know exactly how much they mean to you. As too often happens with our negative feelings, we often don’t tell the people we love that we love them nearly enough. Today would be a great day to reach out and let those people know that on Mother’s Day they come into your mind, because you think of them in the same way as you think of your own mom. They would be really happy to hear from you.

Tatiana Maslany as Allison, Sarah, and Helena on 'Orphan Black'

image: BBC America

Celebrate the other mothers you know. 

While you’re thinking of the other people that have been like mothers to you, don’t forget the women in your life who are currently mothers to other people. Is your sister a mom? Did your best friend just have a baby? Is your really cool boss great with her kids? Reach out to them and wish them a happy Mother’s Day. Maybe offer to watch their little one(s) so their partners can take them out for a special day. Or you can do the taking out and let the spouse stay home with the kids.

The other awesome moms in your life are a great place to direct some energy.

And remember, just as Mother’s Day is complicated for you without your mom, this day can be complicated for mothers without their kids. Perhaps you have a woman in your life who’s given a child up for adoption, or alternately know someone who’s lost a child. These mothers don’t stop being mothers just because they don’t have their children with them, and it’s likely they could use a little extra love today. Reach out and let them know you’re thinking of them, then follow their lead on how they’d like to deal with the day.

Whether they want to observe the day or not, they will appreciate the fact that you lovingly acknowledge what they’ve been through.

Chell_facing_GLaDOS_in_Central_AI_Chamber_Portal 2

image: Valve

Today, I’ll be doing several of these things, celebrating my own mom, while also showing some other mothers and mother-types in my life some love. For me, taking the love I feel for my mom and sharing it with others makes today feel so much better, and I think that’s exactly what my mom would want me to do.

Sending all my fellow motherless children big hugs. I see you, and I hope your Mother’s Day is filled with love and gentleness. Be kind to yourself and others today.

(featured image: 20th Century Fox TV)

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