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Mother’s Day – joy for some, sorrow for others

Mother’s Day means different things to different people.  It has been around a long time, dating back to the early Greeks and Romans in 250 BC, then again in 1600 AD England as “Mothering Sunday,” and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. The holiday is observed in different forms throughout the world, but the intent is the same – to honor the mothers or grandmothers who raised us.

In the current era, Mother’s Day comes to some of us with a mixed bag of emotions depending on your life circumstances and your relationship with your own mother or child.  It can be challenging if you or a family member are experiencing symptoms of depression.  There is a great deal of pressure put on us to meet the images portrayed by the media of a happy, loving family, smiling around a perfectly arranged dining table with pink flowers and lace.  Pressure to make the perfect dinner, arrange the perfect outing, or live up to the rumors of your great-grandmother’s awesome cooking.  These are artificial images that most of us cannot meet and when depressed, we may feel we failed in some way.  I urge you to drop that idea of failure right now!

Yes, many of us have wonderful relationships with our mothers and children who are all alive and well and able to celebrate.   If you are so lucky, appreciate your good fortune!  However, there are others who have strained family relationships, or are estranged, whose mothers are very ill or have passed away and we grieve.  There are those of us who are mothers and have good relationships with our children, and those who have challenges, with either a difficult adolescent or a sick or severely disabled child.  Sadly, there are mothers who have lost a child. This all makes their mothering experience bittersweet.  And lastly, there are those who yearn to be mothers but are biologically unable to have children, and they, too, grieve that loss.  All of these charged emotions tend to peak on a day like Mother’s Day and can contribute to one’s depression.

So, if you are in the position of feeling sad, sorrowful or bittersweet around this holiday, what do you do and how do you get through it each year intact?

If your relationship with your mother is strained, try to identify and understand what is behind your differences.  You may not be able to solve them now in the short term, but you can choose to rise above it for the moment in order to get through this one holiday.  Perhaps you could pick up the phone, arrange a short visit, and try to bite your tongue when you automatically want to respond to something she says or does that you don’t like or that triggers you.  At least for today.  Try not to let her push your buttons and react in haste.  Parents are very good at doing this, particularly those who have a problem with being controlling parents.  Deep down they want the best for you and often see the solution in a very narrow focus.  Ignore the comments about your choices in life, hairstyle, job or spending habits that she might feel free to offer.  Your job is to not take the bait and get into a confrontation today.

If your mother has passed away, regardless of your relationship with her, take the time to grieve her loss and honor her memory.  It’s not easy.  I still sometimes reach for the phone to call my mom when something happens in my life, even though she passed away 18 years ago.  I’ve heard others say the same.  Try to remember the good moments of your time with her, funny times or things that make you feel warm and cared for.  If you have your own family now, pass those fond memories on to your children.

If you are a mother, understand that it’s not an easy job and that there will be ups and downs as you raise your children.  If you basically have a good relationship with your kids, celebrate it!  If you have challenges such as a troubled teen or young adult, or a sick or severely disabled child, it can be more difficult to find the positive in your situation.  The only recommendation I have is to remind yourself that you are doing your best, and try to focus on his or her good qualities, strengths, and achievements.  They just may not be as apparent right now.  While you may need to set boundaries, there’s still an opportunity to involve him or her in family activities where he will feel loved and included.

If you are a mother who has lost a child, Mother’s Day can be overwhelmingly sad and difficult for you.  Remember that it’s just a day, and you have to get through it.  Your grieving is an ongoing process in stages.  Choose to honor the memory of your child in some way, talk about him or her in the family, and try not to avoid the subject.

And if you are a woman who yearns to have children but is unable to do so, for whatever reason, this can be a tough day for you too.  All you seem to see are people out walking with strollers, toddlers playing in the park, kids on the soccer field.  It comes too close to your heart.  You, too, are sad and grieving a loss and you need to allow yourself some time to do this.  On this day, however, try to keep yourself busy and distracted.  Perhaps you can plan time with your own mother or grandmother.  Or give of yourself by helping out a friend or volunteering to those in need – I know from firsthand experience that you gain much more in return by doing this.  And in 24 hours the day will have passed.

Stay well!

This blog was originally posted in View From the Mist on Psychology Today.

This entry was posted in Living with Depression, My Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
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