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A Day Without Mom

May/12/2024 / by Sweta Vikram

How to Survive Mother’s Day While Grieving

South Asian woman hiding sad face with her hand
Photo via Shutterstock

Someone said to me recently, “Losing your mom is a natural part of life.” There was a pause for a second but not a remorseful one. This person continued to refill their drink, “We should all get used to it.” 

I don’t think I needed to remind this person that both my parents are dead. I didn’t say a word, but I thought to myself, “What a privilege to be you. To have both sets of parents and in-laws alive and to preach others from a place of absolute inexperience.”

In writing and releasing my book, “The Loss That Binds Us,” I have met all kinds of people. Mostly generous, considerate, warm, and vulnerable. Grief can bring people and communities closer together. But every now and then, the universe gives me a reality check by populating my personal space with well-meaning but thoughtless idiots. There you go, I said it.

Motherless daughters feel the pain on a cellular level. We might be well-adjusted and functioning. But most of us can’t wait for this dreaded holiday to be over—one that reminds us of our forever loss. Mother’s Day is a day of grief for those who have lost their mom. 

This May, it’ll be 10 years since my mom died. Aside from my brother and I, no one’s heart weeps on Mother’s Day for our mother. Over this past decade, I have evolved and learned new tricks to survive a motherless Mother’s Day. Since Mother’s Day also falls during Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m sharing these tips with you too. 

Communicate With Your Loved Ones

Your spouse and children might want to celebrate Mother’s Day because they love you. But if you are feeling sad about your mother’s absence, you might be tempted to shut everyone out. Don’t do that. Have an honest conversation about what this day means to you and how you feel about it after the loss of your mother. Include them in your plans of staying-in or going out or wanting to spend time alone or bonding deeply with your family. We all do better when we feel genuinely supported.

Connect With The Mother Figures In Your Life

I’m not asking you to find a replacement for your deceased Mom. What I am suggesting is taking a closer look at your world and honoring the various ways in which you have been mothered. When I passed my finals in the Doctorate program, my badi mami (Mom’s oldest brother’s wife) did a puja at home and shared the news with the extended family members. My bua (Dad’s sister) cooked sarson ka saag (Mustard Greens) because that was something Mummy cooked for me every winter. My didi (cousin sister) in Georgia never once forgot to wish me good luck on days I was in desperate need of blessings. Didi would even say, “I am going to do a nazar [evil eye] cleanse for you.” She was the first person to listen to my NPR interview.

When my husband visited my mother-in-law a few months ago in India, I asked her to send poori with sookha aloo and saboodana tikkis. I make all of these dishes at home, but there is something special about getting a taste of Mom-kinda-cooking wrapped in love.

Cry Because It’s OK

In India, when we were growing up, my generation was told, “Acchey bachhey rotey nahin.” Good kids don’t cry. So many adults carry this burden of being stoic even when their heart might be hurting. Cry, if you want to. Crying is soul-cleansing and such a good release. Sometimes it’s places and other times it’s memories or smells or foods that remind me of Mom. If a tear wants an outlet, I see no harm.

Find Ways To Celebrate Your Mom

Ask yourself what was your mother’s favorite color, foods, hobbies, habits, and pet peeves? My mother loved single malt and Thai cuisine. Much like me, she couldn’t handle very spicy foods. But she loved her green curry with rice. Every Mother’s Day, we order in Thai food and eat in her honor. I look at her picture and say with a smirk, “Nope, I am not drinking whiskey even if you liked it.” I also wear my mother’s favorite color or get a lavender manicure. I always share a story or two about her—her recipes or silly actions or acts of care. Practice a ritual to honor your mom.

Do A Social Media Detox

No one’s family is as perfect as it seems on socials. On most days we get that reality. But when your heart is hurting, it’s difficult to remember that highlighted reels don’t necessarily depict the truth about all mother-daughter relationships. With the Mother’s Day commercials on television, every card in the aisle at the pharmacy, and every social media ad geared towards alive mothers, you need to protect your mental health. Feeling stuck in loss can send one down the rabbit hole.

I am all about supporting others, but I unapologetically disconnect from social media for a few days around Mother’s Day and don’t feel guilty about not liking any of the posts populating my feed. These social shares trigger me and remind me of my motherless status. But if being on socials and sharing your mom’s memory heals you, go for it! Your mom would want you to take care of your health and well-being. 

Mother’s Day can be a hard day if you are grieving. But know that nothing lasts forever. In 24 hours, the day will be over, and we can all go about our lives without the painful reminder of this holiday. That’s why it’s important to plan and prepare ahead of time so it hurts a little less.

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” ~ Abraham Lincoln


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