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Bouncing Back After an Emotional Grief Date

grief grief support sibling loss May 11, 2022
child and parent reaching for flower together

By Kim Hanlon

We share a lot about what we do and what we recommend to do prior to and on difficult and emotional dates, and even wrote a whole workbook providing tips for a personalized plan. We also feel that it is important to touch on what to do after an emotionally charged date or event, specifically Mother’s Day which was this past weekend. Many of us are conditioned to “power through” hard or emotional times, and push down uncomfortable feelings. This can lead to feeling wiped.out. afterwards. We’d like to share some things you can do to lessen the burnout and also to help you recover from it. 

Growing up, I enjoyed Mother’s Day. My only stressor was to find the right card and flowers for my grandmothers and mom. My brother, Steven, taught me how to shop for orchids that had a nice balance of open blooms with plenty of buds that could extend the enjoyment of the plant.

Now, Mother’s Day is a mixed bag for me. I loved getting a card made by my sweet 6-year-old, and seeing how proud he was that he wrote out the message himself. I take joy in honoring my mother and mother-in-law as well as spending time with family. At the same time, I know this holiday is difficult for my family as my mom grieves for her son on Mother’s Day and we all feel his loss as his birthday is May 11th - always near Mother’s Day (and the day this blog will publish). My grandma’s birthday is May 9th, shared with my childhood friend Roxy who died super young at just 22 years old.

On top of this all, I feel the weight of others who grieve this holiday, including those who are:

  • Grieving a child,
  • Grieving a mother,
  • Grieving a mother-like figure,
  • Grieving a grandmother,
  • Grieving the expectations or hopes for what motherhood would look like, 
  • Grieving the stress of motherhood and then getting a card one day out of the year,
  • Grieving miscarriages,
  • Grieving not being a parent, when you wanted or feel pressured to be one,
  • Grieving an estranged mother or daughter,
  • Grieving Roe v. Wade,
  • Grieving an ex-spouse,
  • Grieving a deceased spouse,
  • Grieving being less recognized as a mother
  • And many more, as well. 

So yes, Mother’s Day weekend involves conflicting emotions for me. This year I was with my parents, husband, and son as we always try to be together for my brother’s birthday. 

Even as I authentically enjoyed my weekend with my family, I had the shadow of grief in the background, which will likely take more form now that the weekend is through. 

While I have many tools and thankfully dear friends who will support me during this time, I do expect to feel a bit zapped the following week. I know I will not be the only one.

Your grief may feel more intense, more present, and not merely a shadow. 

You may feel you need to be strong or show up for others. 

You may be a younger mother celebrating older generations, or not wanting to show sadness on a “happy” day, feeling you should be “over it” by now or strong for your loved ones.

You may be missing happy memories of past celebrations, or the fact that you have never been celebrated as a mother.

You may feel any number of ways. Know that however you feel, it is valid and okay. There is no ‘right’ way you ‘should’ feel. The way you feel is the way you feel and should be honored.

Tips to help lesson the burnout and recover from an emotionally charged day: 

  • Idea: create a note on your phone (or journal or paper notepad!) where you can write out feelings or notes on grief waves as they arise over the difficult date. 
    • This step can validate your feelings real-time and provide clarity if you, for instance, were surprised at your short temper or fatigue…and then you connect it to your grief simmering in the background
  • Journal (or you can share with a heart with ears)
  • Listen to music you love (bonus: have a dance party!) 
  • Enjoy a podcast
  • Walk with a friend (or yourself)
  • Exercise - pick your favorite way to work up a sweat or move your body
  • Check out our Workbook

Some of these tips will help you actively process your feelings, while others (such as exercise) will help you release tension more than specific feelings. You may want a combination of both. 

Regardless of what you choose, a lot of moving through grief waves boil down to:
1) cultivating mindfulness so you are better aware of your experience and
2) trusting yourself to allow your feelings to flow through you instead of ignoring them.

This is a practice for ALL of us - no one has perfected it and even the “most-skilled” grievers (is there such a thing??) need to continually revisit these tools as they move through their own non-linear grief journey.

Furthermore, what works for one person may not work for you.  Hopefully, this is a helpful starting point for you to think about your personal grief needs and what will help YOU recover after a difficult time. 

What is most helpful for you? We'd love to hear from you.