Navigating Mother’s Day: tips from WAY members

February 2024

From adverts to social media posts, it can be difficult to avoid Mother’s Day.

We are thinking of anyone who's struggling this Mother's Day - those who are being Mum & Dad to bereaved children, those who've lost their Mums and those who've never had the chance to be a Mum or Dad at all...

WAY members both with and without children have offered some tips on how they navigate difficult dates like Mother’s Day…

“My daughters were 10 and 12 when my husband died, so they were old enough to understand and be proactive about Mother’s Day. I didn't put any pressure on them to get me anything but they made me little thoughtful gifts and always bought or made me a card with some kind words. 

I chose to focus on my own mum, who was also widowed. We would typically spend the day together – me, my mum and my daughters – which felt OK. I also remembered my husband’s mum on Mother’s Day and acknowledged her loss, knowing that my husband would have done something special for her. 

Mother’s Day has so many layers to it – it’s unique to each family’s circumstances and can be a particularly difficult day for those who don’t have a positive relationship with their own mothers or who didn’t get the chance to become mothers themselves. Hugs to all – at the end of the day, it’s just a day, and it will pass, no matter how tough it is.” 

- Veronica, WAY member

“The complicated feelings, secondary losses and grief associated with Mother’s Day will be so unique to you, your story and your family’s story. You may just need the day to pass, and to not mark it at all. It can be really difficult to allow space for this, particularly in a society where adorned shop windows and inescapable adverts fosters a belief that Mother’s Day is a day of celebration for everyone. But it’s OK to grieve a relationship that we have lost in all its complexity and imperfections; to grieve a relationship we had, or wished we had, and to mourn the loss of hope for any future reconciliation. 

If it is helpful for your process, try to give yourself permission to selectively ignore the things that might make the day more triggering and upsetting (if that’s even possible). That might mean taking a break from your main social media pages, or from certain people, places and conversations.

For all those struggling and in pain in the lead up to/on the actual day, whether you do something specific to mark the day, or do nothing at all, remember that there is no right or wrong in ‘you do you’. This is your grief, your journey, your way.”

- Anushka, WAY member 

Anushka shared her story and talks to us about the challenges of being widowed without children on Mother’s Day:

"On the first Mother's Day after my wife died the school called me in a panic and asked me what to do as they were making cards. So I asked the kids and they said 'But Dad, you're our mum now so we will just make one for you instead' and that is what we have done ever since"

- Mike, WAY member 

"Widowed parenthood is a heavy burden to bear. My advice to those navigating this is simple, but easier said than done – do what you feel is right for you and your children. If Mother’s Day or Father’s Day is too difficult to commemorate one year, then don’t feel you have to mark it. If you are Muslim and navigating Ramadan with your children, don’t put pressure on yourself to recreate the Ramadan that existed when your partner was alive, but take small steps to create a Ramadan you can share peacefully with your children in honour of your partner.”

- Ruba, WAY member

Hear from WAY member Ruba, who writes about navigating the first day of the Holy Month of Ramadan alongside Mother’s Day:

“When my daughter was very young, I used to make sure that one of my friends had helped her to make a card or to buy a small gift that I could open on the day. Some years, I even bought myself a box of chocolates or the flowers that I know my husband Ben would have bought for me, if he’d been alive. I generally try to avoid restaurants or shops on the day itself and go for a walk or do something nice with my daughter to celebrate how far we have come together since Ben died. Widowed parenting can be tough so any chance to celebrate your achievements is a good thing, in my opinion, even if you don’t have a chance to put your feet up!”

- Vicky, WAY member

“I find that Mother’s Day is always a tough one for me, it is my least favourite day of the year - it is just a reminder that my children don’t have their mum, so I think it is important to know that it is ok not to be ok"

- WAY Member

“For my first Mother's Day after Andy died, the girls made me a beautiful breakfast and then we hid away from the world in a Harry Potter cocoon. I don’t think we moved from the sofa all day.

We had visited my mother-in-law the day before with homemade cakes from the girls with the knowledge that her other children would be spending the day with her.”

- Colette, WAY member

“Go out for the day to a museum, park, cinema, zoo and a nice meal with mum’s favourite desert.”

- Gary, WAY member 

“My daughter was not quite 2 when she lost her dad and is now 8. I’ve always worked with the nursery or school on the upcoming activities for difficult dates like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. I suggest that they let her choose whether she wants to make a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day card or something for me. If she chooses to make a Father’s Day card, then I ask if they could laminate it for her.  We then get some flowers and take them with the card to the memorial garden at the local church. Apart from that we don’t make a big deal of these days.  If we plan to go anywhere, I check it out first to make sure that there are no events on that might make her feel omitted, particularly on Father’s Day.”

- Joanne, WAY member

“Take the children pottery painting or similar – it’s a chance for children to paint something for their Mum, especially if they don’t have anyone to take them out to buy a gift. Or they can paint something for their parent who has died.”

- Helen, WAY member 

“I normally book our favourite pizza place and have a lovely cocktail. I still want to feel like a unit like the other families, so going out feels nice.”

- Erica, WAY member