For some people, Mother’s Day is more of a painful reminder than it is a day of celebration.
The barrage of Mother’s Day greetings on social media and advertisements pick open scabs left from a mother’s death, a painful childhood or general dysfunction.
In these instances, Manhattan-based clinical psychologist Dr. Paulette D. Murphy talked to theGrio and offered tips on how to cope with Mother’s Day and ways that friends and family members can help those who have a hard time.
For those who experience it, Dr. Murphy says there is a way to possibly combat an overwhelming or paralyzing sense of dread on Mother’s Day.
“Positive planning is key. It’s important to acknowledge that a day or event is difficult for you. Prepare activities for yourself that are self–soothing. Planning your day is part of your coping. It’s really important that you take control of the day,” she said.
Positive planning is a tool utilized by Monique Peralta, a 34-year-old wife and mother who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Peralta’s mother passed away from kidney disease in 2012, two months before Mother’s Day.
“That first year, I didn’t want to do anything for Mother’s Day. That was hard, and it came along so fast. The second Mother’s Day, I put flowers on her grave, and that felt a little weird, but I was glad I did it. This year, I’m going to give flowers again,” said the tax analyst and translator.
Peralta also has a tradition with her siblings where they get on a conference call on their mother’s birthday and exchange funny memories they have of her.
Identify a Mother Figure
If there is no biological mother to honor on Mother’s Day, Dr. Murphy suggests you identify a woman in your life who is a mother figure and honor her.
“Family is who you say it is. Someone may not be a biological mom, but you can still acknowledge that person. Meet with her. Sometimes it’s hard to let people in, but it’s good to let people be supportive,” said Dr. Murphy.
Atlanta, Georgia, resident C. Smith (who has chosen to remain anonymous) has a biological mother but says she has never felt a genuine mother-daughter bond. “My mother is just not the motherly type. She never put her hands on me or anything like that, but she was just kind of there when I was growing up. We lived in the same house, but she didn’t raise me. My grandmother raised me,” said the 32-year old beauty consultant.
Take Small Steps
Perhaps three dozen roses and reservations at a five-star restaurant are too much for some to consider — and Dr. Murphy says that’s fine.
“It’s okay to not be ready. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be ready to do something next year or the year after that. Also, always be yourself. Be authentic. At some point, you’ll be able to invest in a ritual that works for you” said Dr. Murphy.
“If you’re talking about abuse or neglect issues, those are harder. If you have any issues of wanting to come together, you can take smaller steps. Maybe you can write a note to her explaining why you’re not ready,” suggested Dr. Murphy.
Stay away from Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms are brimming with Mother’s Day greetings, pictures and acknowledgments.
People post such sentiments without cruel intentions, but for those without a mother to celebrate, it can be painful. Dr. Murphy recommends staying off-line if those messages are bothersome.
“When I see people post all of those things about their mothers, it makes me feel like I missed something. I’m happy for them, but I feel like I missed out,” said Smith when asked why she avoids social media on Mother’s Day.
Have a Good Cry
According to Dr. Murphy, one of the most important ways to cope is to acknowledge your own feelings.
“It’s okay to take care of yourself. If you want to cry, cry. I always tell my patients, there are two great places to cry and that’s the therapist’s office and the shower. There’s something soothing about crying in the shower and having your tears washed away,” said Dr. Murphy.
Peralta had her aha moment in her therapist’s office. After her mother passed, Peralta found that she was having panic attacks while she was driving and did not understand why.
“The therapist pointed out that I would often talk to my mother while I was in the car. Between working and taking the kids around town, I would often get in time to talk to my mother while I was on the road. Not having her to talk to during those times impacted me in a way that I didn’t realize. Figuring that out was a turning point for me,” said Peralta.
Be Supportive and Respectful of Boundaries
Supporting a friend or family member who has a hard time with Mother’s Day can be tricky, but it is possible, says Dr. Murphy.
“Ask if there is anything you can do for that person,” says Dr. Murphy. “Maybe you can plan something to do together. Just respect that person’s process and understand that people mourn in their own way. If they set limits, respect those limits.”
Is Mother’s Day difficult for you? How do you cope?