May 10, 2013
We have been inundated the past month with messages about Mother's Day, telling us how we should show our adoration through cards, flowers, fancy meals and thoughtful trinkets. But for those whose mothers are deceased, the commercials and store displays can serve as reminders of loss, pain or words unsaid, especially if the wound is still fresh.
"It generally takes time to become more familiar with life without your mother," said Cindi Harris Krane, MHS, registered psychotherapist. "When we lose someone really significant to us, eventually our life becomes something that becomes a new normal, a different normal than it was before, and that doesn't happen quickly."
You don't need a holiday to remember your mother, but if you do choose to honor her on Mother's Day and are struggling with exactly how to do it, here are some suggestions that may help you.
Talk about her
Exchange stories about your mother with other people who knew her, or pass along your favorite moments to your children or others who didn't know her as well or never got to meet her. Tell them about your mom's best values, her kindness or honesty or sense of humor.
"Stroll down memory lane and remembrance with kids," Harris Krane said. "I always love to hear stories about my grandparents from my parents."
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Make a memory book
Collect your thoughts about your mother all in one place. This could be something as simple as writing out your memories, or it could be a more elaborate project that incorporates photos and other memorabilia.
"It carries on for generations; you have this wonderful collection that anyone can go to at any time," Harris Krane said.
If your creativity goes beyond paper and pen, try creating your own photo pendant or a bracelet with charms that symbolize events in her life or events that you shared together.
"If you have a lot of ephemera — things you save, the weird stuff in a junk box — it can be collaged or you can do a family tree type of thing, too," said Kristie Hoffman, owner of the Breckenridge Bead Gallery.
Just collecting things that remind you of your mother or that she found interesting, quirky or otherwise worth saving can be therapeutic.
"Usually, there's a few boxes of old photos and maybe theater tickets, things that meant something to the mother or grandmother," Hoffman said. "So the process of going through that can be healing for people, just to think about the person and think about the good times, and then you have a nice thing to share with future generations."
Celebrate other mothers
If there is another motherly figure in your life, be it your mother-in-law, sister, cousin, friend or neighbor, take a moment to acknowledge her with a note or a phone call.
"My husband and I have been invited on the night before Mother's Day to a celebration for one of our friends' mothers," Harris Krane said. "We are thrilled to go and be a part of that; that's an honor."
Write your mom a letter
If it's difficult to publicly venerate your mother, try writing her a letter. Tell her how your life is going, vent about your frustrations, or let her know how much you miss her. If your relationship with your mother was strained, if you feel there were things you left unsaid or emotions you wish you had expressed, a letter can be a good way to get those feelings out so they aren't just bouncing around in your brain.
"It provides you with a way to share with this person who is not physically present, and that process can be healing because at least you're communicating," Harris Krane said. "We don't know if that person will ever know about that letter, but within ourselves, it's therapeutic because it's making it more concrete and getting it out there."
Writing out your feelings can be cathartic, Harris Krane said. Once written, if the words were painful to write, the letter can be burned to release them. If the letter is a joyful one, you can come back to it each Mother's Day and re-read it or add to it year after year, creating something you treasure and can pass on to your children, Harris Krane said.
"Any time we put those thoughts and feelings on paper or verbalize them to someone else or to no one else, it allows for some movement of those thoughts and those feelings," she said. "And that movement is really healthy."
Donate or volunteer
If your mother had a favorite cause, make a donation in her honor or volunteer your time supporting something she loved.
"Look at what your parent loved and go that way," Harris Krane said. "That's a really wonderful idea because it's that old thing — in giving we receive — and I think that's really, really true. It's that much more meaningful when it's in honor of someone who gave so much to you."
Flowers are still relevant
Creating a bouquet of your mother's favorite flowers or ones that remind you of her can fill your home with scents that can trigger happy memories. Planting commemorative trees or plants will have to wait until the warmer summer months, though, and be prepared to compromise due to our harsh climate.
"My mom always planted sweet peas everywhere we lived, and it's just really hard here with those sorts of things," said Lil Giamanco, owner of the Little Flower Shop in Dillon. "I did plant some last year, and they kind of bloomed, but it wasn't like Southern California."
You can also celebrate your mother with flowers by adhering to an older convention.
"The traditional way is if your mom is alive, you wear a red carnation, and if she's passed away, you wear a white one," Giamanco said. "When people wore corsages more, they would do that. The meaning of the carnation is pure, deep love, so maybe that's why they chose carnations."
Do your own thing
Ultimately, only you know how best to remember your mother.
"I think the only thing that's required, that's necessary, is you and your memories, if you feel comfortable spending some time with yourself just remembering your mother in some way," Harris Krane said.
Harris Krane stressed that it's all about doing what's comfortable for you.
"If it's by yourself, if it's with a friend, if it's something large with a group, do that," she said. "What we're doing is creating new memories around that parent, so in 15 years, it's something you'll look back on with fondness and it will make you smile."
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