One of the most potent relationships we’ll ever experience is with our mother. If the mother-child bond is troubled, the passing of a difficult mother can lead to a complex grieving process full of conflicting emotions and challenges.
According to research, the death of a mother frequently has long-lasting effects on a person’s mental and physical health. But there are ways to navigate through the pain and heal. Together, we’ll explore some practical strategies to help you cope and start the journey towards healing.
1. Acknowledge the complexity of your emotions
One of the most challenging aspects of mourning the loss of a difficult mother is the complex mix of emotions you are likely to experience. On the one hand, you may feel deep sadness and loss, but on the other, guilt-ridden relief. Those with relationships underscored by conflict, criticism, or abuse often feel this way.
What is essential is acknowledging that these emotions are valid and that there is no right or wrong way to feel. Here are three things to do at home to help acknowledge the complexity of your emotions when grieving for a difficult mother:
- Embrace emotional validation: Recognise that all the emotions you are experiencing, whether it’s deep sadness, relief, anger, confusion, or any other feeling, are valid and natural. Allow yourself to feel and express these emotions without judgment or guilt. It’s okay to have mixed emotions; there is no right or wrong way to feel when grieving. Acknowledge and validate your feelings as a part of your unique grieving process.
- Practice self-reflection: Take time to reflect on your feelings and thoughts. Journaling, meditation, or talking to a trusted friend or therapist can help you process and understand the complexity of your emotions. Allow yourself to explore your thoughts and feelings without trying to suppress or ignore them. Reflecting on your emotions can help you gain clarity and insight into your grief and allow you to navigate through them with more awareness.
- Find self-compassion: Be kind and patient with yourself as you navigate through the complex mix of emotions. Avoid self-judgment or self-blame for feeling a certain way. Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend in a similar situation. Practice self-care, prioritise your well-being, and engage in activities that bring you comfort and solace.
2. Permit yourself to grieve
It’s often challenging to permit yourself to grieve after the passing of a difficult mother. You may question your feelings or doubt your right to grieve because your relationship was troubled. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that you have lost someone important to you, regardless of your relationship. Grief is a natural and necessary process. By permitting yourself to grieve, you’ll better navigate your emotions and find healing.
Here are three ways to permit yourself to grieve:
- Normalise your emotions: Understand that it’s okay to feel a wide range of emotions, including guilt, shame, confusion, or even relief. It’s natural to have complex feelings and reactions; normalising them is essential. Recognise that your emotions are valid and understandable, given your unique situation. Allow yourself to feel without judgment or shame.
- Challenge self-limiting beliefs: It’s common to feel you don’t have the right to grieve or that your emotions are invalid because of your troubled relationship with your mother. However, challenge your self-limiting beliefs. Remember that mourning your loss is your right, regardless of your quality relationship. Allow yourself to feel and process your emotions without suppressing or denying them. One way to achieve this is through creative activities like art, music, and writing.
- Practice self-compassion: Be compassionate towards yourself. Treat yourself with care and prioritise your emotional well-being. Allow yourself to grieve in your way and at your own pace without putting unnecessary pressure or expectations on yourself.
3. Seek Support from Others
Navigating grief is best with support from others. Whether you choose friends, family, or a therapist, having someone to talk to and lean on makes a significant difference in your ability to cope with loss. However, seek individuals who listen without judgment and offer empathy and validation. Here are three ways to identify individuals to talk to about your grief:
- Non-judgmental attitude: Look for someone with a non-judgmental attitude and create a safe space to express your emotions without fear of criticism or condemnation. These individuals should be open-minded, understanding, and accept your feelings, regardless of the complexity of your relationship with your departed mother.
- Empathetic and validating presence: Choose someone who can empathise and validate your grief experience. Individuals who genuinely understand and will validate your emotions without dismissing or minimising them are best.
- Practical support: Consider individuals who offer practical help when needed. Practical support includes providing valuable assistance with day-to-day tasks, such as cooking a meal, running errands, or providing transportation. All these generous support gestures help ease the burdens of daily life, giving you the space to time to process your grief.
4. Honour your mother’s memory
Honouring your mother’s memory and legacy is a powerful way to find meaning and healing after her death. Whether creating a tribute, writing a letter, or volunteering in her memory, paying tribute to your mother can help you feel closer to her and find comfort in your grief.
5. Practice Self-Care and Compassion
Grieving the loss of a difficult mother consumes much emotional energy and requires self-reflection. Therefore, it’s essential to prioritise self-care and self-compassion as you navigate your emotions and heal from your loss. Self-care may involve setting boundaries, seeking activities that bring you joy, or engaging in practices that promote emotional wellness, such as meditation or therapy. Here are some practical strategies to achieve self-care and compassion:
- Set boundaries: It’s essential to protect yourself emotionally and physically. Setting boundaries may involve saying no to additional responsibilities or commitments likely to overwhelm you during this time. It’s okay to prioritise your well-being and take the time and space to grieve and heal.
- Engage in activities that bring joy: Find activities that bring you joy and make time for them. For example, take up a hobby, exercise, spend time in nature, or take part in quality outings with supportive friends and family. Engaging in activities that bring you joy can help lift your mood and distract you from grief.
- Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself as you navigate your emotions. Allow yourself to feel and express your grief without judgment. Practice self-compassion by offering yourself comfort, understanding, and acceptance, just as you would a friend going through a difficult time. Treat yourself with the same level of care and kindness that you would extend to others.
- Seek emotional support: Consider seeking help from a therapist, counsellor, or support group. Talking to a trained professional or connecting with others who have experienced similar losses provides valuable emotional support and helps you process your emotions in a healthy way.
- Practice emotional wellness techniques: Engage in practices that promote emotional wellness, such as meditation, mindfulness, or journaling. These practices help you process and manage emotions, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote well-being during grieving.
Last, remember that grief is a unique and individual experience. It’s okay to have complex and conflicting emotions. Equally important is acknowledging, validating, and processing your feelings in your way and at your own pace. And if you feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to seek support from trusted friends, family, or a mental health professional.
Finally, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Take it one day at a time. Be gentle with yourself as you find healing and peace after the death of a difficult mother.