33 Meaningful Ways To Honor Your Mother On First Mother's Day
With Spring right around the corner, Mother’s Day isn’t far behind. For many, this is a day of celebration and showing our admiration and gratitude for the mothers and other important women in our lives. It’s filled with flowers, cards, and often elaborate breakfasts of appreciation.
For some of us, however, it’s not such a welcome holiday. It’s a painful reminder of loss and a bittersweet day to endure instead of a time for celebration. It can be difficult to confront those feelings and move beyond them, even when you think you might be ready.
Mother's Day After Loss
Mother’s Day looks different after your mother dies. Even if you have a family of your own, it can be difficult to fully engage with the day when someone important in your life is missing.
No matter how long it’s been since you lost her, you can wake up on that day and feel the same fresh hurt all over again. Spending Mother’s Day without your mom may never feel easy but it’s likely the hardest day to face in the earliest months after her passing.
Grieving Our Moms & Grandmothers
Grief isn’t a straight line. It’s not tidy or easily explained. It’s hard. It’s messy. Sometimes, it hits us when we least expect it. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, even if you process that grief differently than those around you. That’s okay. In fact? It’s normal.
Psychologists suggest there are five major stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The best way to describe them is by working through the emotions they bring with them.
Denial: “This can’t be happening.”
Anger: “It’s not fair! Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
Bargaining: “Make this not happen. And in return, I will ____.”
Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything. I’m going to die eventually. Why bother?”
Acceptance: “It’s going to be okay.”
Do those emotions sound familiar? You’re not alone. Each of those stages represent common thoughts for anyone going through grief. It’s also not always that simple though, is it? Where you are along that journey can change from week to week (or even hour to hour).
You can even feel all those emotions simultaneously at times. You may not even experience some of them at all. That’s also normal. Never worry about what you should be feeling at the expense of exploring and acknowledging what you do feel at any given time.
How do we process that grief?
The most important thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge your pain from the experience. Even when you’re trying to be “strong,” feeling sad, frightened, or lost is a normal reaction to experiencing a death in the family. You may even feel guilty for things left unsaid or those things you might regret. These are all universal emotions in a time of great loss.
Don’t be angry with yourself for feeling them, even if you’re angry at your situation or even the person for “abandoning” you. We all feel these things at one stage or another.
When you’re grieving, one of the few things you must do is take care of yourself. Whether that means seeking out the support of your significant other, your family, a trusted friend, or even speaking to a mental health professional, you shouldn’t go through the process alone.
Grief can be complicated; it’s filled with conflicting thoughts and emotions that may seem like they never end. The sadness of losing a family member, especially one as important as your mother, can be overwhelming. Yet, the immediacy of those emotions will begin to fade over time, even if that doesn’t feel possible just yet.
Why We Celebrate Even When It Hurts
Mothers have one of the most difficult jobs in existence. They give us life. They nurture us. They teach us what it is to be a person and how to become an adult. Losing our mother can be devastating.
In our grief, it may feel impossible to see anything beyond the pain and hurt of losing her. It can take months or even years to feel like we’re back on stable ground after the upheaval of our mother’s death. We work hard to pull ourselves together and learn how to function in a world without one of the most important people in our lives in it. We begin to heal.
And then, inevitably, it comes time for Mother’s Day once again.
It’s impossible to ignore the buzz. From commercials to promotions to even the card aisle at the grocery store, we are bombarded with images of the holiday. Whether you’re facing the first Mother’s Day without her or the fifth, the day can feel less like a holiday and more of a marketing nightmare.
Yet despite how difficult it can be, it’s just as important to explore the best ways to get through the day and maybe learn how not to dread it as much in the future.
How Celebrating Her Life Can Help Us Grieve
If you have a family of your own, normalizing grief can be just as important as celebrating life. Whether you are a mother yourself or want to share the day with the mother of your children, it can be hard to look past the obvious loss and find anything positive in the holiday.
However, it can be a beneficial process for your family, and yourself, to learn how to cherish the memories of your mother as you move forward.
Honoring your mother or grandmother is still an important aspect of Mother’s Day even after they’re gone. It can help to celebrate your mother – and her spirit – after her passing so that you can maintain the important connection the two of you shared even after her death.
We’ve shared this list of how you can maintain your connection to your mother on this day in hopes that you can find the right choice for you. There’s no wrong way to spend the day, though you may find some options resonant more with your needs than others.
33 Heartfelt Ways To Honor Your Mom's Memory On Mother's Day
It can be difficult and painful to experience Mother’s Day without Mom. But there are ways to make it through the day – and many others – in a way that honors her life. We’re here to explore meaningful ways best to face this day without her, keeping her memory alive while practicing self-care.
1. Take the day off.
Clear your schedule. Turn off your phone. Just exist for the day. If it’s hard for you to handle any excessive sympathy or those reminders of the day, plan to spend it on your couch with the ones you love and maybe a good Netflix binge. It’s okay to be selfish today.
2. Visit her gravesite.
For some, it may seem like the perfect choice to visit your mother’s gravesite at the cemetery for Mother’s Day. Some people feel comfortable doing this regularly, making it a normal part of their routine. For others, it can be a difficult task under the best of circumstances. Yet Mother’s Day can be a day for reflection and the perfect opportunity to make that trip to honor her and her memory.
You can bring flowers, a wreath, or another token to her gravesite for the afternoon. Carnations are the traditional choice for remembrance, though her favorite flowers would also be appropriate.
Remember: you don’t have to do this alone if you decide this is an option for you. Bringing a sibling, friend, or surviving parent may help ease unexpected emotions.
3. Simply talk to her.
Even when our loved ones are gone, it doesn’t mean they aren’t still part of us. There’s nothing wrong with taking the time to find a private place where you can take a moment to talk to your mother as if she were still physically present.
It can be cathartic to simply speak our thoughts and let out those feelings you might be bottling. It’s never too late to share your feelings or simply tell her about your day. You’ll feel better once you’ve let go of the words you keep inside.
4. Write her a letter or poem.
One of the worst aspects of losing a parent comes from the loss of regular communication, especially if you were very close. If you feel more comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings through the written word, you can use the day as a chance to pen that note.
Update her on your life, all the new things that you’ve experienced, and ask her for advice about anything bothering you. It can’t replace those close conversations, but it may help you feel closer to her even after she’s gone.
For the more creatively inclined, you could turn those thoughts into a poem outlining how much she means to you and how much you miss her.
5. Pick out a card for her.
If picking out a Mother’s Day card was part of your yearly routine, you don’t need to feel obligated to stop. If seeing those cards on display makes you feel emotional and you miss the ritual of card exchange, there’s no reason not to buy one that makes you think of her.
You can take the card to her gravesite and leave it for her if you’d like. You can also tuck it away with a box of keepsakes or even set it next to her urn or cremains.
6. Share your favorite memories of mom.
There are a thousand little moments we remember about our mothers that will we never forget. Mother’s Day is absolutely the day to share those. Everyone loves to hear family stories, especially ones they might not have known. Reveal those little pieces of her that made her unique and wonderful.
If you have children, you can take the opportunity to talk to them about their grandmother. It will help all of you feel closer to her even when she isn’t there.
7. Ask questions about her.
You aren’t the only one who might have memories of your mother they’re eager to share! As children, there is a lot we don’t know about our parents, especially in their younger years. It can be easy to forget that sometimes we don’t know all there is to know. If you feel ready, it might be time to ask questions about those little details you didn’t know about her.
Reaching out to other family members – like a surviving parent – may gift you with new information that will help you understand her better, even now. It can also allow you the opportunity to celebrate her with others who loved her as much as you did.
8. Share time with your family.
It may be that the best thing you can do on Mother’s Day is to spend time with your family. This can be the best thing for everyone if you have kids. It may be time to create new memories on that day to help you feel less sad or lost. Don’t expect this to be easy; it may require an uncomfortable or painful effort to let yourself enjoy anything when you miss a loved one so much. But ultimately, it will help you moving forward.
They won’t overwrite the memories of your mother or the experiences you shared; it will, however, help you find solace in this day instead of just grief.
9. Spend time with others who loved her.
Without a doubt, there are others who loved your mother almost as much as you did. You may want to take the day to seek out her girlfriends, extended family members like aunts or uncles, or even her close coworkers. You may find that they have stories to share or insights to offer. They may just want to take the time to remember her, too.
If talking is too hard, you can even just spend some time in silence together in her memory.
10. Design a thumbprint pendant.
If you want a way to memorialize your mother that lasts beyond the holiday, personalized memorial jewelry offers a unique choice. One such custom item is a Thumbprint pendant. Thumbprint jewelry combines the wholly unique aspect of a person - their fingerprint - with a customizable, wearable piece of art that celebrates that person.
With your mother’s thumbprint (generally included in a funeral home’s services), you can have that piece of her permanently engraved onto a sterling silver pendant to wear or display. Our fingerprints are a unique part of us. What better way to keep that unique piece of Mom with us wherever we go?
11. Let yourself grieve.
Keeping those emotions bottled up isn’t going to be helpful in the long run. You owe it to yourself to let them out. It might be time to let yourself cry. While it’s not always pleasant, it can be a necessary part of grief and make you feel better when you’re finished.
Take the time – and the privacy – you need on this day to just let yourself feel what you need to feel.
12. Explore her favorite hobby.
What did your mother love to do in her spare time? Did she garden? Sew? Or did she enjoy spending a few hours with a new book? Mother’s Day might be the best time to try your hand at something that made her happy, even if you might not share the same passions.
You may not want to take up the hobby for yourself afterward, but even doing one of these things for the day can help you feel closer to her. Even if you end up being terrible at it, you’ll find yourself thinking of your own memories of her doing something she loved.
13. Plant flowers or a tree in Mom's memory.
Do you or your mom have a green thumb? A good way to feel connected to her might be to spend some time outside and get your hands dirty. What was her favorite flower? If it’s in season, you could pick one up at a nursery and plant it in a pot on your porch. You can also plant a tree in her memory, either through a service like Memorial Tree or, if you have access to the land, on your own property.
Even if you just want to try your hand at a small succulent to keep in a windowsill, it might be a good opportunity to grow something as a reminder of her.
14. Pull out those photo albums.
If there were a day to take a deep breath and dive into the photo albums you may be keeping tucked out of sight, this is it. While it does have the potential to be painful, it can also be incredibly cathartic if you’re prepared for the experience.
What were the most important moments of her life captured on film? What photos may have stories to accompany them that you can share with others? Take as much time as you need to spend with her memory and just appreciating her beauty (both inside and out). You may find a cherished photo you never knew existed! It could be the perfect find to frame and hang on the wall or incorporate into another keepsake.
15. Create a video memorial.
Do you want to make a visual keepsake that you can share with everyone? You might want to consider compiling a video memorial of your mother with photos and home movies. You don’t have to be particularly technologically savvy these days to edit video. You can do something simple like a slideshow set to her favorite song or a piece of music that you associate with her. When it’s finished, you can share it with your family and post it to Youtube or Facebook.
Free software like Blender can help you create something more professional if you’d like to experiment and learn new skills, too.
16. Repurpose her jewelry.
It’s likely that you already have a few pieces of Mom’s jewelry that you occasionally wear or keep in your own jewelry box. However, some of those may not entirely be to your style even if you’d like to wear them. You can consider refashioning some of those pieces into something original that is meaningful to you while still honoring her.
Creating something new from something of hers is a chance for you to wear something important to your mother in a way that’s respectful and meaningful to you.
17. Create a photo engraved keepsake.
There are other options when it comes to memorial jewelry. One that’s gained recent popularity is photo-engraved jewelry. With this, you can take your favorite photos of Mom and have it engraved in metal, creating a sturdy keepsake you’ll be able to hold onto forever.
The most popular pieces are photo-engraved pendants. These personalized, wearable keepsakes are perfect for keeping your memory of mom close to your heart. There are similar items available as well, ranging from keychains, bracelets, and even cremation pendants that hold ashes.
With the ability to engrave any image into metal, you’ll never have to worry about a faded photograph or blurry memory. Most keepsakes are fully customizable, including the ability to add an inscription on the back, making it an even more intimate piece of jewelry you can keep and pass down to your children in the future.
They make wonderful, personal keepsakes to wear to remember and honor your mother.
18. Light a candle.
For many cultures, it’s traditional to light a candle in memory of a loved one. Mother’s Day may be just the occasion to do that. The simple act of lighting a memorial for her, perhaps placed next to your favorite photo of her, is a wonderful way to represent how much her memory means to you.
There are candles designed expressly for this purpose that you can find online. Many of them are lightly scented and can be refillable for future use.
19. Say a prayer for Mom.
If you are religious, today might be a good day to open yourself up to God and pray. You can pray for guidance or for God to share your growth and joys with your mother’s spirit. It can be a wonderful tradition to hold for Mother’s Day moving forward, too.
For Christians, it may also help to keep Psalms 34:18 in mind:
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
20. Frame her handwriting.
If you have a copy of her handwriting – an old card, a letter, note, or even a signature – you should consider having it framed to place in your home. You can even find an old recipe card (maybe her favorite?) and hang it on your kitchen wall.
Simply keeping it in a place where you can see it regularly may bring back good memories for years to come. More than that, it’s a great conversation starter for guests, offering you the chance to share those memories with others when they visit.
21. Carry on a tradition.
What did you do with your Mom on Mother’s Day? Did the two of you go out to dinner? Did you cook at home? What’s your favorite Mother’s Day memory of when you were a child? You can recreate those things for yourself today if it’s something you had fun doing back then.
Do things that brought you two joy when you were together to create new memories, especially if you have kids of your own. It can help you to share the things you loved to do with your mother while sharing her memory with the next generation.
22. Cook one of her favorite meals.
Food can be a powerful trigger for memory, especially when you can associate a recipe or a certain meal with a person or place. Mother’s Day is the perfect time to tie on an apron and step into the kitchen. You can recreate one of your mother’s favorite dishes or even one you have fond childhood memories of eating at home.
It can be even more fulfilling to share this home-cooked meal with your family or even a group of friends on Mother’s Day. What better way to honor your mother than bringing people together over her favorite food?
23. Set a place for her at the table.
This Mother’s Day, you can set a place setting at the dinner table for your mother. You can add a favorite framed photo of her to the setting, effectively leaving a place for her even when she’s no longer there with you. It may help you feel close to her, especially if the family uses the time to share their own favorite memories or quirks they loved about her, too.
Focus on those happy moments while you share a meal and you’ll have created another happy moment to hold onto.
24. Visit her favorite places.
Places hold sentimental value to us as much as keepsakes, objects, or behaviors. Take the time to visit one of your mother’s favorite places, whether it be a park, restaurant, or even a little coffee shop she liked to visit. Did she love to shop at a specific boutique? Take a trip out there and buy yourself a little keepsake that reminds you of her.
Create new memories in these places with those you care about – your children, friends, or even significant other – to compliment the ones you have with her.
25. Plan a trip.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do to clear your head during a bad time is to give yourself a change of scenery. Mother’s Day weekend might be the right time for you to do just that, take some time off and head somewhere you’ve never been – or go someplace love – to take your mind off the day and your memories of it.
You can look for a cheap flight somewhere out of town and plan a little adventure on your own (or with others!). If you have the means, you can also consider traveling to a spot your mother always wanted to go to. Or one she once visited and told you about.
It’s okay to admit when you aren’t ready to face the day without her. There will be other Mother’s Days and maybe for this one, you should do the best thing for you.
26. Spend time with a beloved family pet.
Was your mother an animal lover? If your mom had a beloved pet, spend some time with them on Mother’s Day. It’s easy to take a dog for a walk or a trip to a dog park that afternoon. For smaller pets like cats or even other critters, you can always just spend some time with them at home or just snuggle.
Most likely, you’ll both appreciate (and might even need) the experience.
27. Celebrate the other Mothers in your life.
Mother’s Day is a time to honor all the important women in your life. There may be many women who helped you become who you are; it may be a great day to share your appreciation for them. Your grandmother. A mentor. Even your best friend.
These can all be important women who have stepped in to help you through the harder days since her passing. You can still miss and cherish your mom while showing your gratitude to those who are still here with you.
28. Make a donation in her honor.
For Mother’s Day, you can always make a donation to an organization or a cause that your mother felt strongly about – like animal welfare or perhaps a children’s service organization. You can also consider donating to research for cancer or Alzheimer’s.
Making the donation in her name is always a good way to share her memory with others, making her legacy that much greater.
29. Volunteer your time.
Sometimes, donating money isn’t a feasible (or responsible) option for us. However, you can just as easily donate your time this Mother’s Day. Volunteering is a great way to spend a day that might otherwise leave you at a loss.
It’s a good way to keep yourself busy if you don’t want to be alone. Volunteer Match is a great resource to help you find the perfect way to donate your time.
30. Step back from social media.
There are times when social media is exactly what we need to make it through a tough day. We can often find support, empathy, or advice from others in similar situations. However, if the inevitable rush of Mother’s Day-related posts, memes, and photos are going to feel overwhelming for you, it’s time to take a break.
Unplug from the internet for the day or even the whole holiday weekend. You may find that it’ll be easier to navigate your own feelings when you aren’t surrounded by pointed marketing or even other people celebrating the day.
Self-care takes many forms, and this may be the one that works for you.
31. Celebrate yourself.
On the subject of self-care, Mother’s Day may be an opportunity to focus on yourself as well. Are you also a Mother? It can be easy to forget about your needs when you’re grieving but it’s so important to remember that this is your day, too. Take yourself out for the afternoon. Maybe book a spa day and get a nice manicure or an indulgent haircut. Maybe even take yourself out for dinner if you feel the urge to splurge.
It might seem like an odd choice on a day like this but being gentle with yourself may be exactly what you need to settle your emotions and feel better moving forward. You are allowed to let yourself feel good, too.
32. Treat it like any other day.
Mother’s Day is an arbitrary holiday. You are under no obligation to celebrate it even under the best of circumstances. If you can, you might want to treat it like any other day in your life. You can change the subject if someone brings it up. Be sure to tell your friends and family that you aren’t partaking so they can support you!
You might not be ready to handle Mother’s Day just yet. And you know what? That’s completely okay. If thinking about your mother is too fresh and painful, you don’t have to celebrate. You can just pretend the day does not exist.
33. Ask for support.
Reach out to the people who care about you. No man (or woman) is an island. You need the people in your life today more than ever and the people who love you will be more than happy to help you with this burden. You may want to schedule a time to text or call a friend just to talk or even as a distraction. Let yourself lean on your friends! You won’t regret it.
If you feel isolated and like you can’t talk to friends or family, you can always schedule an appointment with a grief counselor or therapist to help talk you through the day. There’s no shame in asking for help. We all need it sometimes.
There are many support groups for this situation, too. Organizations like Motherless Daughters offer support and help from people who are in the same situation. You may find solace in others when you can’t find what you need on your own.
When Dad Is Hurting Too
While it’s all too easy to get lost in our own sadness, we can forget about the others in our lives who may be experiencing the same thing. If you have a surviving parent, it’s very likely they are also struggling with the holiday as well. Whatever your situation, it’s likely that you’ve both lost one of the most important people in the world to you.
Encourage your father to talk about how he’s feeling in the weeks leading up to the day. Much like you, he might not know how he’s going to feel until it’s actually upon him. At the same time, he may benefit from considering how he might spend the day as well. It might help you both to talk about some options for how to spend Mother’s Day or the days surrounding it.
If you are close to your father, you may want to include him in planning for the day. If he discovers you are doing something big (like a trip or a big group meal), he may feel further hurt or loss if he’s not part of your plans in any way.
If nothing else, you could plan to telephone him on Mother’s Day to check-in; it’s likely he’ll love hearing from you anytime, but this might be a particularly good occasion to schedule in. Thoughtful gifts such as a necklace for ashes for dad might be a nice surprise and a wonderful way to commemorate the day for him.
One thing to keep in mind again – you are allowed to be selfish today. That is absolutely a given. You cannot, and should not, do anything that will damage your own well-being and healing after your mother’s death.
However, it may be easier for both of your father and yourself if you’re allowed to both grieve and honor her together in some way.
Remembering Mom & Grandma On Mother's Day
Mother’s Day can be difficult for many, including those of us who have lost a mother or grandmother. Even if you feel ready to handle whatever comes your way, you may not be able to anticipate exactly how that first Mother’s Day without her is going to feel.
“People die only when we forget them. If you can remember them, they are with you always.” Isabel Allende
The most important thing you can do is be prepared for anything. Everyone grieves differently, and even within your family, your needs may be different than someone else’s. The important thing to remember is that it’s okay to take whatever path you need to make it through.
There are a lot of ways to approach Mother’s Day beyond the ones we’ve compiled. We hope you’ll find something that speaks to you and helps you heal.
March 11, 2020 by Jeri K. Augustus