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Mental Health Awareness Month: Mother's Day Is Not All Roses

Flowers. Warm hugs. Gratitude. The hallmarks of Mother’s Day. As much as Mother’s Day is a celebratory holiday, it can also be a triggering one for many understandable reasons. Just as cars are not created equal, neither are Mother’s Days or moms or maternal relationships, for that matter.

On the more obvious end, grief from the loss of a mother can make this day difficult, whether it is the first or subsequent Mother’s Day since the loss. Grief is not linear: one’s response to that loss can move around and look different year to year on Mother’s Day or other holidays.

There is another more subtle and less talked about circumstance where Mother’s Day can be triggering. That is where an adult child has a strained relationship with the parent and is choosing a low-contact or no-contact arrangement with the parent. Attachment relationships that are strained, difficult, even painful are complicated and layered. A friend or family member may be in the process of untangling a difficult relationship with their mother or have made many failed attempts to repair the relationship leaving low- or no-contact with the parent as one of their better options. 

Mother’s Day has an inherent societal pressure to appreciate and be grateful for your mom as well as share plans for and pictures of Mother’s Day. This is wonderful when you have a good enough relationship with your mom. Not everyone is so fortunate, unfortunately. The women and men I have worked with whose relationship with their parent was far from good enough, had substantial grief and regret about the relationship. Not only do they experience the pressure of feeling like they ‘should’ appreciate their parent, they also experience the loss of not having that loving relationship during a time when it seems everyone else is enjoying a wonderful maternal figure.

Most people are reluctant to talk about the complicated relationship with their parent, their misgivings, anger, hurt or need to keep some distance from the parent.

If you are one whose relationship with their mom is nothing like anything you’ve seen written in a Hallmark card for Mother’s Day, be kind to yourself this Mother’s Day. It is incredibly difficult to navigate a not-good-enough parent relationship. You may have many conflicting feelings, including hope and hopelessness or guilt and anger, about the parent and relationship. This is perfectly normal given the strain on our hearts and minds when we have a difficult relationship with our parent.

Psychodynamic, attachment and psychoanalytic types of therapy can also be useful to untangle the knots inside and mend the holes from a difficult relationship with your parent.

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