Mother’s Day. I am struck by how often there are deep feelings of grief that arise for some of us on Mothers Day. I want to acknowledge that grief. Even the word “mother” can deeply affect or triggered some women.

There may be traumatic events, deep longings to be mothers or recent rows. There may be recent events still fresh. There is no timeline for grief.

For many, Mother’s Day is fraught with conflicting and difficult emotions. I have noticed in my practice a large number of women are experiencing grief at some level in relationship to their own mothers or mothering.

Women who wish to have children and cannot
Mothers who have lost children to illness or accident or war
Women who wish to be mothers and are unable to conceive
Women whose own mothers did not protect them from abuse
Mothers who are in custody battles or are struggling to support their children as single parents
Women who have been in abusive relationships and are struggling to support their children
Mothers who had miscarriages and are mourning
Mothers who are in need of mothering themselves
Women who are childless by choice
Mothers whose relationship are strained with their children
Women whose mothers have died and are feeling the loss
Women who have lost their partner and are mothering alone

How to support yourself or a friend who is grieving on this Mother’s Day

1. Be gentle with yourself.
2. Give yourself and others the gift of your full attentive presence.
3. Attune to your own needs.
4. Acknowledge your need for support and reach out for it.
5. Let others know that you are hurting and name your sadness.
6. Honour your tears and let them flow freely.
7. Seek support and find your herd, or
8. Find solace in giving yourself quiet and solitude to mourn.
9. Feed and fill your senses with things that nourish you.
10. Simply honour yourself and what you would like to do today.

This poem is one of my favourites and fitting for the theme of gentleness on Mothers Day.

Wild Geese

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.”

― Mary Oliver

Tune into what the soft animal of what your body loves. Notice those little impulses that might pull at your heart and follow them as best you can. When we tune into what supports and nourishes us our system starts to realize it is safe and begins to settle.

Build your sensory “tool box”. Sensation is the language of the nervous system.
Notice what senses you like.
What lights you up inside. Go slow and easy if this is new to you.
Explore with curiosity. What are you drawn to?
Sound, visual beauty, taste, movement, aromas
Spend some time being curious about what things make you feel good in the moment.

What do you notice around you?
If you can be in nature,
Let you eyes take in what is around you.
Let your breath breathe you and don’t worry about changing your breath in any way.

The evidence is clear that the body and awareness of the present moment must be involved in healing. If you have overwhelming grief or strong emotions you are having trouble processing, consider somatic or body-based therapies such as Somatic Experiencing developed by Dr. Peter Levine or TRE (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises). These gentle and self-empowering healing methods help to ease and integrate overwhelming experiences.

If you would like to learn more about these practices, click here to register for an upcoming class or book an appointment with Jane Courtney from Empower Health & TRE Vancouver.

You can hear the author Mary Oliver Reading the poem by clicking here.