Celebrating your first Mother's Day without mom, or any holiday without a loved one, is a painful experience. When it comes to the first holiday, emotions are raw and messy. This is especially true if you've experienced birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day without your loved one. The holiday should revolve around them, but they aren’t there, which can make coping feel impossible.
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Getting through the day in an emotionally healthy state is important. If you have small children, who are coping with the loss of a parent, your job is even harder. Pretending the day doesn’t exist, or that today isn’t different, may only bottle emotions for a future outburst.
There are other things you can proactively do, however. Start considering what traditions you used to do, what they mean to you, and what they could mean to you now. With a little forethought, you can cope and celebrate at the same time.
How to Survive Your First Mother’s Day Without Mom
Being proactive and starting new traditions is a great way to lessen the sting of Mother’s Day this year. This allows you to bridge the gap of former traditions with new ones.
Here are the dates for Mother's Day for the next few years:
2021: Sunday, May 9
2022: Sunday, May 8
2023: Sunday, May 14
2024: Sunday, May 12
2025: Sunday, May 11
Give a gift to other family members
Mother’s Day is usually celebrated by giving gifts to your mom. Taking her out to brunch or selecting the perfect card are traditions. Even though your mother is no longer with you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t continue the spirit of gift-giving.
You don’t have to pick a traditional gift that acknowledges your mutual loss. Instead, choose something meaningful for them. Selecting a surprise gift may indeed offer some respite from your sadness. Giving a gift is evidence that someone was thinking of them on this difficult day.
And this positive energy is infectious, so it might bring a spring to their step as well. If you have small children, a gift helps commemorate their mother in a way that doesn’t bring more pain to a tragic day.
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Reflect on a Mother’s Day poem
Many artists were quite close to their mothers. Many poets created volumes of tender, reverent poetry dedicated just to a mother. A lot of these pieces are odes to mothers and their never-ending wisdom, strength, and patience. Your mother may be gone, but that doesn’t mean her traits died with her. Her legacy, as exemplified by these poems, still lives on through you and every other life she touched.
Standard poetry books are a great resource. Scan the table of contents to find appropriate titles or categories. You can even look for books of mother-oriented poetry meant for gifts. If you don’t enjoy physical books, there are vast collections of poetry online. Below are two sample poems for you to reflect on:
“There is but one and only one, / Whose love will fail you never. / One who lives from sun to sun, / With constant fond endeavor. / There is but one and only one / On earth there is no other. / In heaven a noble work was done / When God gave us a mother.” -Author Unknown
“There are times when only a mother’s love / Can understand our tears, / Can soothe our disappoints / And calm all of our fears. / There are times when only a mother’s love / Can share the joy we feel / When something we’ve dreamed about / Quite suddenly is real …” -Author Unknown
Memorize or read a quote
No matter the length, a good quote often inspires. With motherhood, sometimes all you need is a spark of inspiration to keep going during some tough times. Quotes can be funny, poignant, cliché or simply useful.
On a day like Mother’s Day, maybe you can recite a few quotes to jog your memory of a card you made years ago. If you don’t want to think about those days or walk through the card aisle at a supermarket, maybe you can pick up a poetry book or a collection of essays.
Try walking through a bookstore to find a poetry or essay collection that speaks to you. If you’re not up for meandering through the shelves, you can read through the small selection we put together below.
- “I can imagine no heroism greater than motherhood.” -Laurence Conrad
- “A mother is like a flower. Each one is beautiful and unique.” -Unknown
- “The sweetest sounds to mortals given / Are heard in Mother, Home, and Heaven.” -William Goldsmith Brown
- “Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” -William Makepeace Thackeray
- “I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” -Abraham Lincoln
- “Motherhood is priced / Of God, at price no man may dare / To lessen or misunderstand.” -Helen Hunt Jackson
Continue a tradition
What else is a holiday other than a day where everyone engages in traditions? Maybe your tradition was to make breakfast in bed for your mom or to go out to her favorite restaurant. It may have been a ritual for you and your family to surprise your mother with a new activity, a new mountain to hike or a new lake to walk around.
Some of these places may be favorites that you miss, but honestly, Mother’s Day is no different. After all, once you’ve discovered the perfect Mother’s Day brunch spot, why would you change it?
Continuing a tradition without your mom may be painful. But going to a favorite spot can also pay homage to fun memories that you created with her. Sticking in a routine also lends a sense of normalcy to the day. If you always made mimosas and watched Gilmore Girls reruns on Mother’s Day, do it as a family. Bringing everyone together to celebrate Mom’s favorite tradition will help with loneliness.
Read our article on things to do in memory of mom in our article on how to say "Happy Mother's Day in Heaven, Mom."
Activities To Do in Memory of Your Mom
Activities help fill a day that might otherwise seem empty and lonely. These activities, though, do more than that. They help carry on your mom’s legacy and honor her.
You can support her favorite charities. Or, you can spread the love she showed to others. If you have a green thumb, try creating a memorial of sorts. Fill your day with activities that create new, positive memories.
Visit someone who lost a child
Losing a child can be one of the most tragic experiences someone can have. Losing a parent, though, is comparable. Both cause an extraordinary amount of grief and leave a void in someone’s life that is difficult to fill. For someone who lost a child, you are experiencing opposite losses. You lost a parent, they lost a child.
There are similarities, of course. What if their child always took them out to brunch, or brought them flowers on Mother’s Day? Their day is lonely and sad, too. Starting a new tradition of taking a childless parent out for Mother’s Day is a great way to mark the occasion.
Some people might worry that it feels like they’re ‘replacing’ their mother. This is impossible. You can’t replace someone who made such an indelible impact on your life. You can carry on her legacy by spreading the sense of community and love your mom might have supported. Two lonely people bonding together helps create a valuable support network.
Plant flowers or a tree
It’s a tradition for people to bring their mother flowers on this day. Bringing flowers to a grave, though, is a sad substitute. What else can you do? A great idea is to plant her favorite flowers. You can plant them near her grave, of course. But you can also plant them at your own home. This is a sweet reminder of your mom and the flowers she loved.
If you’d prefer to treat this like creating a green memorial, a tree might be a better option. It’s a lovely choice, with a sense of permanence. Trees also make major contributions to the environment. If you’re torn between a tree or flowers, consider your budget and available space.
Also, consider your climate. Some plants do well with little supervision. Others are finicky and need close attention. Dedicated attention to a new plant could help build a little routine in memory of your mom.
Carry on her legacy
What organizations or charities was your mom involved in? This is a great opportunity to give back when you have more time on their hands.
If your mom was involved in this kind of altruistic work, volunteer for a day. Volunteering is a great way to infuse more positivity in your life. Working with a charity can quite literally get you out of your head. If it’s a charity your mom loved, it’s a sweet, sentimental opportunity to give back.
What if your mom wasn’t involved in any charities, though? Consider the causes she loved. Was she a teacher? Maybe you could volunteer at a children’s storytime. Did she vote for projects that brought resources to inner-city schools? You could coordinate a drive to get these resources to children who need them. A little creativity can go a long way when dedicating time to charity organizations.
Make New Traditions
Some people say that the first holidays are always the hardest. You’re trying to bring new traditions out of grief and loss, but time can help to heal some of those raw wounds.
Future years will be easier, as your pain lessens. Fond memories will resurface. New traditions can carry your mother’s legacy into the future. Even though you don’t get to celebrate with her, you'll never forget her.
- Neffi. “Happy (early) Mother’s Day!!” The Buzz, New York City College of Technology, 8 May 2018, openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/the-buzz/happy-early-mothers-day/
- “Mother’s Day/Motherhood Quotes.” jesuitresource.org, Xavier University’s Center for Mission and Identity, n.d., www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/quote-archive1/mothers-day
- “Prayers for Motherhood and Mother’s Day.” jesuitresource.org, Xavier University’s Center for Mission and Identity, n.d., www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/prayer-index/mothers-day-prayers