Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Grief


by Lisa Templeton-Farmer, Director of Grief Programs for Kansas City Hospice

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are usually happy celebrations. But for people who’ve lost a parent, those days may trigger feelings of sadness, loss and regret.

Some believe the days leading up to celebration may be harder than the day itself. Seeing the shopping ads, stores with greeting cards and candy offerings and the media coverage leading up to special days can be painful reminders of what is lost.

When you see other people having special events with their parents, it can be sad. You know the tradition will be different for you. You might regret not having spent more time with your parents. Maybe you are jealous of friends having special celebrations. Do you miss your family traditions? Or do you just miss being able to share this special time with your own mom or dad?

Not all relationships were perfect and that can also complicate holidays. You might wish to check out Grieving a Difficult or Conflicted Relationship.

Here are some ideas:

Have a quiet day on your own – perhaps do something you used to do with your mom, spend time looking at family photos or visit friends.

Do things differently – if the thought of a tradition is too painful, then change it up.

Remember the good times – enjoy your dad’s  favorite meal or listen to his favorite music.

Create a memorial – plant flowers or a tree in a place that holds special memories.

Catch up with your siblings – share memories, or if you don’t feel ready to relive memories, visit your mom’s final resting place. Light a candle or have a memorial gathering in your home.

Buy a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day card – write a message and  display it at home. Take it to the cemetery or perhaps mark the day with flowers in memory of your parent.

Release a balloon – young  people might wish to tie a card or special message to a balloon and release it into the sky. They could blow bubbles and imagine they carry a message.

Involve children in decisions – ask them how they feel about the day, and let them know that they can share any thoughts and feelings with you. They may be worried about upsetting you, so help them feel included. They may have some good ideas on what to do.

Tips for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

Be patient with yourself – whether this is the first celebration without your parent or if your loss was long ago, this time can intensify grief. That’s not something you need to “fix.” It’s a natural part of life.

Allow yourself to grieve – sometimes anticipation can be worse than the days themselves. Recognize that these times may be difficult.

Tell others what you need – do you want to continue traditions, begin new ones or not celebrate at all? Choose what you want to do and let those around you know how they might help you.

Reach out for support – if you think you need support, ask! Friends or family may feel awkward about offering  help, so if you want company or support, let them know.

Don’t feel guilty if you have moments of fun – honoring your parents includes knowing that they would want you to be able to feel joy.

For more tips on grief and holidays, see Hanging on at Holiday Time.

About Us

The mission of Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is to bring expert care, peace of mind, comfort, guidance, and hope to people who are affected by life-limiting illness or by grief. Our vision is that each person in our community is valued from life through death and each family is supported in their grief.

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