Mother’s Day should be filled with joy, but for those whose mums are no longer here, it can be a bitter reminder of what’s missing. In 2009, Laura Graham lost her mum to breast cancer. With time, she’s discovered some tools to help her take something positive from the day

More than half a million deaths were registered in England and Wales in 2017, and with every death comes a ripple of people who are affected by the loss. It’s vital that we learn how to manage loss and grief, and bring this taboo subject out into the open, especially at difficult times of year for many, such as Mother’s Day.

For those whose mothers are no longer here, the women whose children aren’t with us, and those childless not by choice, Mother’s Day can be a painful time – and even more so when it isn’t just one day, but months of advertising and references to the event. When you’re grieving, it can feel very lonely. For me, each year following my mum’s death became a new torture.

I made a lot of mistakes over the years. I ignored the day completely, I drank far too much alcohol to block it out, I pretended mum was on holiday. All of these unhealthy coping strategies ended in disaster. Personally, I doubt it’ll ever be a day I look forward to, but I found that doing positive things made it so much easier, and I hope these strategies can help you as well.

1. Be gentle with yourself

Feeling upset is natural. You don’t have to pretend you’re OK if you’re not, and allowing yourself the time and space to feel that pain and sadness will help you to process it.

Look at it as an opportunity to take a self-care day, and look after your wellbeing. Do things that make you happy, like taking a bath, reading your favourite book, or getting out in nature. It may be that you don’t feel the same level of enjoyment as you normally would, but that’s understandable. Looking after yourself can only be a good thing, and definitely something your mum would approve of.

a vase of flowers

2. Write your feelings down

Grief can cloud our minds and overwhelm our thoughts. Putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboards, and writing down what’s on your mind can be cathartic. It allows you to understand what you’re experiencing. You don’t need to write in structured sentences – if you can only manage random words, that’s totally fine. Remember, you’re not writing for a specific outcome, you’re writing just to write. Seeing your thoughts in print, no matter how random, will allow you to move forward, even in a tiny way.

3. Random acts of kindness

Studies show that helping others actually boosts our own happiness, and on a day where happiness can be hard to find, why not give it a try? Kind gestures shouldn’t be reserved for the people we know, and giving to strangers can bring just as much joy. I went to the self-help section of my local bookshop, and put positive notes that I had hand-written in the books about grief. It cost me nothing to do, and I know that it will give someone a moment of happiness when they read it.

4. Celebrate and forgive her

If you feel able to, celebrating your mum, her life and her achievements with those who knew her can be a positive step – and this goes for anyone who may have died. Get together with family and friends, and share your favourite memories. Don’t be scared of looking at photos; they shouldn’t be items that torment you, instead, allow them to evoke a memory. In your celebration of her, remember the good and bad. Your relationship might not have been perfect, so recognise that. Just because she’s gone, doesn’t mean you can’t talk about things you wish could have been different – that’s as important as remembering the positives.