9 Ways To Navigate Mother’s Day When You’d Rather Avoid It

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Mother’s Day is typically portrayed as an entirely positive experience. Social media will soon be filled with rosy tributes to moms. But if you don’t have a great relationship with your mother, or your mother has passed away, or if you want to be a mother but are unable to, Mother’s Day can be emotionally draining. If you have complicated or difficult feelings around Mother’s Day, here are nine suggestions on how to pull through. 

1Accept that Different Emotions Might Arise

Clinical psychologist Nikki Press tells CircleAround: “First and foremost give yourself permission to have and to recognize all the emotions that might come up on this day, even if Hallmark is only marketing certain ones.”

2Set Boundaries

In addition to accepting difficult emotions that may arise, Press says that it’s also important to enforce boundaries with your mother. Since Mother’s Day typically revolves around gathering together, you can always opt out of a celebration if you feel that’s appropriate.

3Plan Ahead

Mother’s Day will arrive soon. If you anticipate you’ll feel negative emotions, plan ahead. Press recommends staying away from social media, restaurants that are celebrating Mother’s Day or TV shows (hello Gilmore Girls) that might potentially upset you. If your mother has died, consider honoring her in some way. Press suggests visiting her grave or maybe gathering with friends who can share memories of her.

4Try the ‘S.U.P.P.O.R.T’ Method

“Mother’s Day can be hard because of the expectation. Our moms are supposed to always be the nurturer looking out for us, providing us with comfort,” Shawnessa Devonish tells CircleAround. Devonish is a therapist and trauma expert. She often works with clients who have toxic relationships with their parents. To help manage complicated feelings on this day, Devonish suggests using her “s.u.p.p.o.r.t.” acronym method: 

Setting boundaries

Utilizing support systems

Prioritizing self-care

Positive self-talk

Outcome, not relationship

Realistic expectations

Time limit 

5Avoid Triggering Situations

If your mom has recently died, Mother’s Day can be particularly challenging. Devonish says, “Avoid interacting with others or being around situations that may trigger an intense grief response, especially if you are not in a safe space to experience them.” It’s also not a good idea to push down those feelings. “It's important to develop calming and self-soothing techniques to manage those emotions. Examples of those particular techniques include deep breathing, guided meditations, five senses exercises, listening to music,” says Devonish.

6Give the ‘Mother’ Title to Someone You Feel Is Worthy

“Some people don't have really good relationships with their moms, and they are struggling with that. They struggle with managing that frustration or even feeling that frustration, and they start to feel guilty about their emotions,” Devonish says. It’s okay to give that motherly title to someone else who may have served that role for you. Celebrate that person instead. 

7Listen to Your Body

“Don't feel pressure to do anything you don't want to do. Don't feel the pressure to interact with any parent, whether it's mother or father. If you don't have a good relationship, the interaction’s not going to be positive,” says Devonish.

8Focus on the Positives

If your relationship with your mother has been fraught, you also can try to focus on the positive aspects of your mom or the things you’re grateful for. Even if you don’t even see her on Mother’s Day. If you look hard enough, you can probably find some positive aspects and that might help you put things in perspective.

9Lean on Your Support

Let’s say you want to have a child, but you haven’t been able to conceive. Maybe you’re not partnered, or perhaps you’ve had to give up on the dream of having a child after longing to be a mother for decades. If any of those scenarios are true for you, seeing pictures of all your friends with their kids might feel hurtful. In these cases, seek support groups. “Tapping into individuals who are going through the same experiences are super, super important because you will definitely feel heard and validated,” says Devonish.

The Bottom Line  

Acknowledging your difficult, complicated feelings — especially on a holiday like Mother’s Day that’s packed with cultural significance — can help you get through the day. “What's so important is just the validity that a person can have many different feelings and even many conflicting feelings all at one time. It doesn't make me one more or less legitimate or more or less true,” says Press. “This is a day that can be painted in one brushstroke and that's not an accurate reality.”

Tags: Mother's Day, Motherhood, Grief

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Written By

Teresa Traverse

Teresa K. Traverse is a writer and editor who has been published in Brides and Bust. Visit teresaktraverse.com for more. See Full Bio

CircleAround will make financial distributions to benefit current Girl Scouts: the next generation of trailblazers who will CircleAround after us. So CircleAround for inspiration, and CircleAround the leaders of tomorrow. CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA.

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