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  • Catherine Nasskau

When Mother’s Day is Difficult

Updated: Jun 5

Mother’s Day is a special day for many, but it can also be a difficult day for lots of people, so this article is written particularly for anyone who might find it a challenge.

I was interested to discover that Mothering Sunday was originally a day for Christians to visit their ‘mother church’, which is why it is always three weeks before Easter Day, and not about mothers at all. It is only in the last 50 years that the day has become commercialised, with a focus on mothers rather than churches.

I think that my son, away at university, will be aware of the day, (although am prepared for him forgetting!). But for many adults Mother’s Day is hard to ignore, with all the promotions and merchandise in shops, garden centres and restaurants.

This is lovely for some, but not all. And there can be many reasons for women and men of all ages to find Mother’s Day difficult.

· You might have always wanted to be a mother but it just never happened.

· Perhaps you lost your mother when you were young or more recently.

· Maybe you don’t get on with your mother, and this ‘special’ day just makes you feel sad or envious of others.

· Or you could simply find being a mother challenging and not the happy experience you expected or hoped for.

· Perhaps you’re worrying you’ve been a bad mother or that awful things are going to happen to your child, however old they are.

· Maybe your grown-up children are involved in their own lives, and not in touch with you as much as you’d like; or perhaps your children are no longer alive.

Whatever you’re feeling, remember you’re not alone

All these experiences are so normal and also very common. To be human is to be full of emotions – sadness, anger, envy, disappointment and guilt – and days like Mother’s Day, Easter, birthdays and anniversaries can intensify those feelings. Perhaps on these days see if you can allow yourself to be as you are; make space for your emotions rather than try and make yourself feel something you’re not. If you’re feeling sad or upset, telling yourself “I shouldn’t be feeling this”, or “There are so many people worse off than me, I shouldn’t be feeling sad”, just adds to the stress and hurt. Can you be kind to yourself with whatever you’re going through?

I also suggest you try and avoid social media on days like Mother’s Day. It will probably be flooded with images of the “perfect Mother’s Day”, which will only make you feel gloomy if yours doesn’t seem to match up. Businesses want to make money out of the day, and each year seems to bring an increase in ways it is promoted.

Mindful Mother’s Day

If you’re struggling and happiness seems out of reach, try aiming for a “Mindful Mother’s Day” this year. Instead of aiming to get rid of your emotions, you could try using mindfulness exercises to manage them instead.

Practising awareness of emotions can be a powerful strategy for letting go of emotional suffering

You could try some of these ideas:

1. First, simply notice which emotion is present, and name it.

2. Experience it as a wave coming and going, allow yourself to feel it in your body. Then imagine you’re riding the wave as if you’re surfing. Take some deep breaths. Start again when you fall off your surf board!

3. Don’t try to push your emotion away – see if you can simply let it sit on the side while you focus on your breathing.

4. Remember, you are not your emotion – it is just something that is visiting, and it will pass.

5. And if the emotion seems too painful to turn towards, you could try taking your attention elsewhere – maybe taking some deep breaths, breathing out for longer than you are breathing in. Or focus on sensations in your feet or hands.


You could also take a moment to consider what you do have that you could appreciate. This is not to push away the unpleasant feelings, but as something else to focus on. It could be simple things like having a home, being safe or aspects of health. It is our natural tendency to focus more on the negatives, so we need to make a bit of an effort to notice the good things we have.

Treat yourself

See if you can treat yourself with care and gentleness – maybe do something you know you enjoy - as simple as having a hot drink in your favourite cup, a hot bath, put on some uplifting music, go for a walk or do a meditation. If you’d like to try meditating to help with difficult emotions, you could try some of my free guided meditations, such as 'Facing difficulties' or 'Kindly Awareness'.

May everyone have a nurturing and gentle day this Sunday.

Self-care with compassion, drinking tea
Looking after yourself on difficult days

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