How to Cope on Mother's Day After Pregnancy Loss

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Mother’s Day is often incredibly difficult for those navigating infertility or grieving a pregnancy loss. Whether it’s been years since your loss or days, the holiday can feel impossible to navigate, especially if you don't have living children.

Although Mother's Day is technically just one day, reminders of the holiday start well before the actual day. The constant imagery and messaging in the days and weeks prior can unearth challenging feelings, especially if you've lost your mom or don't have a good relationship with your parent.

While there is no specific set of rules to follow when it comes to Mother's Day, allowing space for your natural feelings and placing boundaries where you need them is often a good place to start. If you find yourself dreading Mother's Day, here are some ideas to help get you through the day.

Intentional Avoidance

Avoidance can be a helpful coping mechanism, whether it’s avoiding a family gathering or the day altogether. “Avoidance can be an adaptive way of coping when used as part of a larger focus of healing," Loree Johnson, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in fertility counseling, says. "When dealing with triggers, we often think that powering through or white-knuckling it is the best approach, but the emotional stress that it places on our bodies can be counterproductive.”

Filter Your Social Media

While it might not be realistic to sign off social media and email for the four weeks leading up to the holiday, you can temporarily remove social media apps from your phone or unfollow or mute accounts you'd prefer not to see.

Alternatively, you can fill your social media feed with accounts and resources that make you feel seen. Here are some of my favorites:

You can also create a filter for your inbox to automatically delete any Mother's Day emails, promotional or otherwise. Or ask a trusted family member or friend to make sure you aren't included in any group texts or emails about the holiday–if you don't want to be.

Celebrate Yourself

You don't have to celebrate Mother’s Day after pregnancy loss, but loss moms can and should be honored if they desire. Celebrating yourself can take any form you’d like. It could be grabbing drinks with friends, staying home and cooking dinner with your partner, taking a road trip, or saying yes to a Mother’s Day gathering while asking the group to honor your losses.

“I knew on that day I had to be in a safe space and for me, that meant packing up my things and heading to the mountains," Rosemarie Philip says. "When I reached the summit, the colors of the sunset washed over me with a peace that I couldn’t get anywhere else. On the way back I listened to Ella Fitzgerald and thought about what I would cook when I got home.”

Celebrate Your Mother

For those who have a loving relationship with their mother—or a relationship somewhere between supportive and stressful—showing up for them on Mother's Day could be a good option to temporarily remove yourself from any pain. If celebrating your own mother isn’t an option or doesn’t bring you joy, looking to the other mothers in your life might. 

“I hid in my home far away from all the festivities and triggers, but, I did take a moment on that day to honor my own mom rather than focus on the baby I lost,” Tanya Hubbard, a licensed counselor from Canada, says.

Find Support

Sometimes when we’re overwhelmed with emotion, we lose sight of what we need. If intentional avoidance isn’t your thing, reach out for support instead. You can talk to a partner or friend, schedule a therapy session, or find an in-person or online support group. Scheduling this support ahead of time is a good way to ensure you feel heard and validated. 

Give Yourself Permission To Be and Feel Messy

You may find that your emotions are all over the place in ways you didn’t anticipate. Not only is that totally normal, but it’s also expected. You don’t have to put a smile on your face, you don’t have to be brave, and you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Feel your emotions unapologetically, and cancel or say no to plans accordingly. 

“The key is to have an initial plan based on how you think you may feel, but have a backup plan in case you need to pivot at the last minute, which usually happens when we’re feeling overwhelmed," Dr. Johnson says. "If you plan on celebrating your mother or loved one by taking them to brunch but start to get overwhelmed, you may decide to enjoy some downtime afterward to recenter yourself.”

Keep in mind that no one can read your mind, not even the people who know you best. Be straightforward and vocal about the expectations you have, and let the people around you know what you do and don't want to do. 

A Word From Verywell

No matter how you choose to or not to celebrate Mother's Day, know that your decision is valid. There is no "right way" to take on Mother's Day after the loss of a child or while experiencing infertility.

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  1. American Psychological Association. Avoidance coping.