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Mother’s Day without Mom?

mothersdayWe are less than a week away from Mother’s Day, and preparations are in motion, cards are purchased, reservations are made and flowers will be sent.  That is what Mother’s Day has come to represent for most of us, but there will be some for whom Mother’s Day is more an occasion for dread or sadness.  That is because Mom is no longer here to celebrate the date.

Especially in my work as a certified geriatric care manager, I’ve talked with caregivers who have lost a mother. I find that there can be a lot of denial or depression as May comes around.  It seems easier to ignore the day, or maybe the sad, slippery slope of depression seems unavoidable.  That is where I come back to one of my mantras for all caregivers, and that is that the caregiver needs to care for herself or himself.  What does caring for the caregiver look like when one is facing an important, but seemingly hollow, holiday?  You can begin by letting the mom who lives in your memory remind you of the good times or the kind words or the special places.

Mother’s Words.  If you have a sibling, perhaps start the conversation about what “mom used to say.”  If she used words of encouragement like, “It is not about what the other kids do; it is about just doing your best.”  Or maybe mom liked to talk about finding the “silver lining.”

Mother’s Things.  Those of us who have lost a mother also probably saved an item or maybe several of the things that delighted mom or that we particularly associate with her.  Maybe your mom kept a collection of your pictures or clippings from the school paper?  My mom kept a small spiral notebook of jokes so that she could remember and share them with others.  Most of them were admittedly a bit corny, but they make me smile even now when I go through the pages of memories on days like Mother’s Day or her birthday.

Mother’s Actions.  It can also be special to do some of the things that your mother used to do as a way of “taking a walk with mom.”  Maybe mom had a favorite park or garden where she liked to go on “her day.”  May is such a wonderful month for all the new blossoms of spring, and taking that walk can bring back wonderful memories complete with beautiful buds and their wonderful scents.  Or some find it really great to go to mom’s favorite restaurant and have their own favorite dish or order the chocolate pie that always was mom’s guilty pleasure.

It really all comes down to making the day special for yourself just as you used to make it special for your mom by caring for the caregiver.  Doing that special something for yourself just as you used to do it for your mom can actually make you both feel better about her day.  And if you are a mom with kids of your own, it can also be a wonderful way to let them know how to someday manage their own transition of Mother’s Day.

Charlotte Bishop is a certified Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to


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