How to celebrate Mother’s Day when you don’t have a mom

My mom died eight years ago. (Cancer; thank you; it’s not your fault.) I miss her every day, but there are some days that I feel her loss especially hard. One of the biggest is Mother’s Day. Don’t get me wrong—I love seeing sepia-toned throwback pictures of my friends’ moms on Instagram (and sharing my own), and it makes me happy knowing people are celebrating with their families. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not. Through the years, I’ve learned a few tricks that make the day more bearable. Even though it might not feel like it, there are ways to celebrate Mother’s Day without mom.

Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be brunch, barbecues, and bouquets of flowers. If your mom passed away, if you have a complicated relationship with her, or if you never knew her at all, you can still celebrate in less traditional ways. These ideas may not all work for you, but hopefully one or two of them will help you get through the day and make you feel good.

1Send an alternative Mother’s Day card


I miss sending Mother’s Day cards. It’s such a simple gesture, but not having the option was more of a bummer than I expected. I don’t know if you’ve been in the greeting card aisle lately, but there are virtually zero options for people without moms. That’s why I love sending cards designed by Emily McDowell & Friends. Sentiments like, “Thanks for being my honorary mom” and “Happy Mother’s Day, Dad” still let you participate in the act of sending a card. They also makes cards to send to motherless people. Sayings like, “I know this day really sucks for you. I’m thinking of you.” And, “Today, let’s celebrate the amazing job you did at basically raising yourself” can make all the difference on a difficult day. Shop alternative Mother’s Day cards here.

2Make one of her favorite recipes

We all have childhood memories that revolve around food. Tap into that food nostalgia and use it to honor your mom. If there’s a dish or dessert she used to make a lot, whip it up in her honor. It’ll remind you of the good times and make you smile. It might even be the start a new tradition.

3Skip the flowers and send yourself a plant


Sending flowers and plants is not limited to moms. Why not send one to yourself? Plus, you can think of your mom every time you look at it. We like this springy duo of an Anthurium and Calla Lilies, two easy-to-care-for plants that will instantly brighten your mood. Buy them here.

4Visit one of her favorite places

Did she love springtime at the botanical garden? Watching the penguins at the zoo? Hiking a specific trail? Visit one of her favorite places. Being there and seeing it through her eyes may help you feel more closely connected to her.

5Write her a letter

One of the worst parts of losing a parent is not being able to update them on your life, share your accomplishments, tell them what’s bothering you, and ask for advice. Writing your mom a letter can’t replace a real conversation with her, but it can still make you feel closer to her.

6Spend the day alone with a book


I prefer to spend Mother’s Day alone, but I also like to know that I’m not alone in my alone-ness. Talking with someone else who “gets it” can be a tremendous help, but if you’d rather not have a conversation with someone, I highly recommend reading a book like How to Be Alone by Lane Moore. Lane basically raised herself, so her thoughts on navigating the world without a mom will definitely resonate. Buy it here.

7Reminisce about the good times

Look through old photo albums. Read old texts and emails. Call friends and family members who knew her and loved her. Tell someone your favorite story about her. It can be painful and triggering to think about memories, no matter how happy they are. But if you’re feeling up for it, it can be extremely cathartic, too.

8Treat Mother’s Day like it’s any other day

Mother’s Day is an intense holiday if you’re missing your mom. If you’re not ready to face it or if thinking about your mom is too painful, that’s fine, too. Take time to relax, do whatever you want to do, be kind to yourself, and unplug from social media. Mother’s Day is just another day, and it’ll be over soon.

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