Tips for Coping with Emotions During Mother's Day

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UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain offers tips for coping when Mother's Day is emotionall difficultMadison, Wisconsin – Mother's Day is quickly approaching and many people are considering how best to show their appreciation for everything their mothers have done for them. Unfortunately, there are many people who suffer rather than celebrate on this day.


"If you had a mother who did not know how to give unconditional love and empathic nurturing, if your mother is no longer in your life, or if you lost a child or are childless, then Mother’s Day can be a trigger for emotional distress and painful memories," says Shilagh Mirgain, health psychologist for UW Health. "Reframing the focus of this holiday can be an effective way to celebrate all the positive attributes of motherhood you may not have experienced as a child or missed out on as an adult."


Mirgain suggests the following coping strategies if Mother's Day brings you disappointment, pain, a sense of loss, or sad memories:

  1. Mother yourself: A mother's love is a powerful thing, but sometimes we did not receive it or don’t have a child to give it to. If any old hurts or memories arise, allow your feelings to surface. On this day, be kind to yourself. Picture a mother offering love towards a child, now practice offering this same loving kindness towards yourself. Reach out and connect with people who support and care about you so you don't feel alone.

  2. Forgive and accept: The past does not have to define you. You have a choice. You can’t change what happened, but you can work on healing from it. Forgiveness and acceptance are doorways to healing. Ask yourself, "How can I make meaning from what I’ve gone through," "What kind of legacy do I want to leave?" Answering these questions can help move forward from what happened versus staying stuck in the past.

  3. Reflect on the gifts gained: There are often gifts and contributions from any experience that we go through. Maybe it's just the gift of life, or maybe it was a talent or creative ability or intelligence that you inherited or maybe you have a lot of joyful memories of a child no longer with you in life. Look for the diamond in the rough and ponder these qualities or experiences.

  4. Celebrate your own way: There is no "right way" to spend and celebrate Mother's Day. Figure out what would feel good to you, what kind of contact and connection and even card you want to send your mom. Think about celebrating motherhood of all mothers – appreciating motherhood in friends and in yourself. It could also be a day to love children in your life, regardless of their relation to you.

Regardless of your past experiences, Mirgain says Mother's Day is a good opportunity to celebrate all the women who bring beauty into your world and who provide unconditional love, support, and understanding.

Date Published: 05/06/2014

News tag(s):  shilagh a mirgain

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