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Navigating Mother’s Day: Reflections from those living without moms

Maria Vassiliou
Maria Vassiliou
May 13th 2024 - 20 minute read
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Read insights and words of wisdom from other people living without a mom, and how the manage and cope during mother's day.

Mother's Day often revolves around celebrating the bond between mothers and children, filled with love, laughter, cards, flowers and brunches. For those who have lost their mothers or are estranged from them, this time of year can evoke a complex mix of emotions— nostalgia, longing, and perhaps even a sense of isolation.

As Mother's Day approaches, it's important to recognize and honour the unique ways people navigate life without a mom. From seeking solace in the presence of other maternal figures like grandmothers, aunts, and friends, to establishing rituals that commemorate and recognize maternal absence, each journey is deeply personal and unique.

This article is a collective endeavor by individuals who live life without mothers, coming together to share their insights, thoughts, and words of wisdom with others who may find themselves in similar circumstances.

You can read their collection of heartfelt reflections during this time of year below.


How have you found ways to honour or acknowledge other maternal figures in your life (grandmothers, aunts, cousins, friends, etc) since losing your mom?

“I make a point to let them know how much they mean to me and tell them what I love about them. When they cross my mind, I'll often stop and reflect on them and what they mean to me. Kind of like if they were to be in front of me and I could give them a hug or tell them I love them, I let my heart hold them in reverence.” – Lana S.

“I make sure to validate the efforts that my Aunts and friend’s Mom’s put in to make me feel included and “mothered.” Even if they hit a nerve or are triggering me with their efforts, it’s important to remind myself it’s in their nature to want to Mother someone who doesn’t have a Mom. I make sure to celebrate every occasion as my friends become Moms, because I didn’t have a Mom celebrating me, let alone a village. “ – Al H.

“The best way I can honour my mom is to share who she was– her traits, her humour and her kindness. My mom (Wanda) would always think "What if that person had no one to talk to today? What if they never have anyone to talk to?" and reminded me to be kind, because we never know what someone else may be experiencing. I make sure to help those in my community as often as I can, to volunteer and to be kind to others.” – Laura M.

Alexandra and her mom.

“I know I will never be able to experience the warmth of my mother's embrace or hear her comforting words. When I'm saddened by these thoughts, I find comfort thinking of the women in my life who have showered their maternal love on me. Whether it's my grandmother planting a soft kiss on my cheek, or my friend's mom holding my hand and telling me she will always be a phone call away, these acts remind me of the love my mother would have given me if she could.” – Baljot K.

How has not having a mother impacted your life, especially during significant life events?

“The sadness of not having my mom in the physical, the way I wish she could be with me is a reminder of how much she means to me. I've heard it referred to as 'happy sorrows' and that resonates with me.” – Lana S.

“Not having a mom as a child, then as a teenager, and now as a young woman has impacted me in ways I never expected. Deep human connection is scary when your Mom rejects you permanently. Christmas is hard. Christmas movies are hard. Seeing happy families. Birthdays are hard. I want the traditional family setting, and I don’t get it. Hearing friends complain about their moms is hard. Being a teenage girl with only a dad and brother was hard. It’s hard feeling pitied by your peers, when you didn’t choose this. I wanted to be looked at as normal, but I also felt like the farthest thing from normal. Helping families that are grieving their mom is hard, because I relate to their feelings but I feel mine are less valid since my mom isn’t dead. Everyday is hard when you feel like you’re missing a piece of you, and you know if that piece of you wanted to be around, life would have been easier.” – Al H.

“Since my mom's death in 2023 on Mother's Day, it's been… painful. It's been overwhelming, terrifying, and lonely. I often find myself wondering if other people without a mother are feeling this way? At times, I feel envious when others complain about their mothers calling ‘fifty times a day’... what I would give to just see her phone number on my phone's screen just one more time. To hear her laugh, to have a hug. Wanda had a stroke in 2017, and due to this, was diagnosed with vascular dementia, along with a few other diagnoses which made her quite frail. I often share with people that it was like losing her twice; once because I "lost" the mother I knew because of her stroke and had to navigate my "new mom.” Then in death, I had to grieve her all over again. Every day is different. This Mother's Day will be the first without her, so I'm not sure how I'll feel, but I hope to do something special and different to honour her that's different from what I do every day.” – Laura M.

Laura M’s Mom.

“Not having a mother has definitely made celebrating significant life events harder. I miss having her by my side to share the good things with, ask for advice on the important things, and have her support during the hard things. It was surreal to watch my best friend, who my mom has known and loved like her own daughter since she was 7 years old, get married without my mom there to witness and celebrate it, too. It's difficult to experience wins and milestones because for a moment, I want to call my mom to share the good news, and then remember that I can't. Her absence has also made me appreciate the other connections in my life more. I now actively try not to take my remaining family and friends for granted, not leave important things unsaid, and not prolong trivial fights. You never know how much time you may have left with someone, so I never want to leave things on a bad note or harbour resentment. I now want to make sure that at the end of the day, my loved ones know just how much they mean to me and how much I appreciate having them in my life.” – Alexandra V.

“During challenging times, and even the happiest of times, I feel an inexplicable sense of loneliness. I lost my mom when I was 6. Back then, I was too young to comprehend the gravity of her loss, but as I've grown older, the void she left seems to only grow bigger. During difficult times, it feels like I'm fighting a battle by myself, trying to gauge others' intentions, and wonder if there is anyone as selflessly and unconditionally committed to my well-being as she would be. I've accepted that no one will ever be able to fill her place, but I've learned to find an odd and unique solace in the glimpses of kindness I receive from those around me. Sometimes, it's in the comfort of a heartfelt conversation with a friend, the sincere advice of a mentor, or the sweet gentle smile of a stranger in which I find parts of her.” – Baljot K.

What's one thing you wish people understood about living without a mom?

“It’s really scary. Watching everyone around you have the safety net of calling their Mom when they’re in doubt, and I… Have Google.” – Al H.

“It's a feeling you can't explain, losing our mothers. Even if your relationship wasn't perfect, it's a kind of feeling that compares to no other, and it's scary. Be sensitive to your friends without moms who may be struggling, and be a beacon for them if they need a shoulder to lean on.” – Laura M.

“If you're choosing to be distant from your mom, imagine her not being in the world anymore; if that thought is devastating to you, maybe there is a better way.” – Lana S.

Lana S. with her mom and family

“I wish people understood that living without a mom means losing an irreplaceable relationship, so it's not a loss that we can ever completely heal from. The initial wave of support and condolences eventually dies down, but I still have to continue navigating life without the person who knew me for literally my entire life. Your mom is there from day one. They bring you into this world and raise you. They see every phase you go through, and love you unconditionally through it all. We can never replace that relationship. I wish people understood that it isn't triggering or upsetting to continue to support and check up on those of us living without moms. I imagine it's similar to becoming a new mom. There may be an initial wave of support that eventually slows, even though you don't just need it at the very beginning. Having someone to offer to babysit, help around the house, or provide emotional support when motherhood gets overwhelming, is helpful whether the baby is weeks, months, or years old. Years after losing my mom, I'm still grateful anytime a friend shows up and offers their help, knowing that I no longer have a mom to check up on me ever again. Loss is a permanent change in our lives, and I wish it was treated that way.” – Alexandra V.

“I wish people understood it's not something that you recover from or "get used to." You teach yourself to accept the reality again and again.” – Baljot K.

What's one thing you wish people wouldn't say to you about living without a mom?

““She’s your Mom. She loves you.” Well, she left. So, that’s not helpful.” – Al H.

“"You're so strong." "You can get through anything." "I don't even LIKE my mom, I wish I didn't have to see her." <<(That one was a shocker!)” – Laura M.

“I wish people wouldn’t tell me that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ It’s frustrating to hear someone suggest that there is a reason I deserve to go through a painful loss. I also wish people wouldn’t say that ‘God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,’ or tell me that I'm strong. We shouldn't be dismissive of other people’s feelings or assume that everyone experiencing loss is capable of handling it alone. I don't want someone to tell me how strong they think I am. I'd rather have them offer to help carry the weight. There is no perfect thing to say to someone living without a mom, so I wish people would just share their sincere condolences and offer their support, whether we ask for a shoulder to cry on or an ear to vent to. The grieving don't want to hear attempts at justifications for their loss or assumptions about their ability to handle it; they just want to grieve.” – Alexandra V.

“"I know you don't have a mom, but at least you have..."” – Baljot K.

Baljot K and her mom.

What's one thing you wish people would say to you living without a mom?


“‘I’m sorry for how hard that must have been, and how hard is still is’” – Al H.

“"You're just like her, she would be so proud of you." (Luckily, many people do say we sound alike and that I am a lot like her, but it's always nice to hear!)” – Laura M.

“Say you're sorry for my loss and that this sucks, because it does! I know it’s difficult to find the "right" words. Even if people don’t know exactly what to say, I wish they would just show up anyway. Having someone show up imperfectly is so much better than having them avoid the elephant in the room altogether because they don't know the perfect thing to say. I appreciate when friends invite me to family events because I don’t have a mother to celebrate mine with. Or when they send cards, gifts, or kind messages on my mom’s birthday and Mother’s Day. Because unlike them, I’m usually spending those days alone. If you can't physically show up, something like a food delivery gift card on Mother's Day with a "thinking of you" message speaks volumes, because it's thoughtful to help with the burden of grocery shopping and cooking when I'm grieving and unmotivated. When you don’t know exactly what to say, your presence and thoughtful actions can speak louder than words.” – Alexandra V.

“"I'd love to hear about any of your experiences, if you'd be open to sharing."” – Baljot K.

In what ways do you honour or remember your mother on Mother's Day, or throughout the year?

“I'm kinder to myself because I'm my mother's daughter. I'm honouring her when I honour myself. I spend time with myself doing things she and I would do together. I imagine her with me and watching me, and that makes me feel like she's right here.” – Lana S.

“I don’t. But I celebrate my Dad a lot.” – Al H.

“I love houseplants, so after her death, I was able to take all of her own houseplants and bring them to my home. I enjoy propagating them, taking time and care to do so. It makes me feel close to her and reminds me of our time together. One plant I gave to her the day of her brain surgery after her stroke, one is a Christmas cactus that never bloomed until recently...they all have meaning and it's time I put aside for "us." Connecting with her best friend of 60 years to reminisce is really special to me too.” – Laura M.

“On Mother's Day, I enjoy celebrating the women in my life who are kind, dedicated, and resilient mothers or maternal figures. I want to remind them how truly lucky their loved ones and families are. There are so many things I wish I could say to my own mom, but being able to express my love and gratitude towards these women fills my heart with warmth and offers a bittersweet comfort. I see reflections of my mom's spirit in the mothers around me - in their everyday patience, sacrifices, and unconditional love.” – Baljot K.

What rituals or traditions have you created or continued to do to commemorate your mother, or acknowledge her absence? What do you do to commemorate or acknowledge the maternal figures in your life who may have stepped in?

“My sisters and I live far away from one another but have a virtual date every Wednesday night. More than anything our mom wanted us to remain close and always be there for each other. Last year on the anniversary of her death we spent it together virtually and incorporated some spiritual practices we used to do together.” – Lana S.

“I don’t have any. I do self care on Mother’s Day and let my aunt/friend’s mom’s be celebrated by their own kids.” – Al H.

“I don't have any other maternal figures in my life as they are all deceased, but I like to have keepsakes in every room of the house, sometimes in unusual places. I have a pair of her glasses in the medicine cabinet, a hair clip of hers in my desk drawer. It may sound strange, but it gives me space to acknowledge her death, but also stay close to her as well. I have a particular tree in a particular park that I like to stop at with the dogs as often as I can, even for a second. There's no signage, there is no plaque, but in my mind, it's her tree. A fun one is that some nights I'll order her favourite pizza, just because.” – Laura M.

How do you cope with societal expectations and reminders of Mother's Day?

“Last year was my first Mother's Day without my mom and as the emails for Mother's Day started to come in, they felt like a knife to my heart. It was gutting. I let myself be with the shock and pain, trusting that was the best thing for me to do at the time.” – Lana S.

“Stay away from social media. Self care practices on the hard days. Allowing myself to be angry or sad.” – Al H.

“Since this is my first year, it's hard to say just yet, but I'm already reminding myself that this is my own experience that is unique to me, and I can make it special in a way that is meaningful to me.” – Laura M.

“Honestly, with difficulty sometimes. I never noticed how in-your-face and commercialized Mother’s Day has become until I lost my mom. This time of year brings constant unwelcome reminders that I have no mother to celebrate. I try to remember that I’m in good company with plenty of people who feel the same on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and other holidays that can put the spotlight on the losses and absences in our lives. I’ve been able to cope by reminding myself that I’m not alone. It helps to reach out to friends and family that are in the same boat, whether we want to vent and cry about the Mother's Day reminders, distract each other from them, or focus on being grateful for what we still have, not on mourning what we lost.” – Alexandra V.

“Apart from celebrating mothers I know, and the maternal figures I have in my life, I try to limit my exposure to media, and cherish the serenity that comes from sifting through old photos and journaling my thoughts and emotions.” – Baljot K.

What's one thing you wish you could say to your mother if she was here right now?

“She is right here! Just different. I would assure her these tears are happy sorrows because of how much she means to me.” – Lana S.

"You're still my best friend, even in death, I look to you for guidance, for strength and I always will. Thank you for giving me all that you have and for being the best mom I ever could have imagined." – Laura M.

“Thank you. I am so grateful for the time I had with you. I love you so much.” – Baljot K.

What advice would you give to others who are also navigating life without a mother?

“Be kind and patient with yourself. Forgive yourself for anything you tell yourself you should have done differently. Your mom would want you to. If the pain is deep, so was the love. Embrace it all.” – Lana S.

“Keep going. Become fiercely independent so you never feel alone and scared again. Be your own safety net.” – Al H.

“Be kind to yourself! Know that each day will feel and look different, and that's ok. Try to be mindful of how you are feeling and reach out to those who can support you. There's never anything to be ashamed of - do all of the things! The rituals, the talking to yourself, the talking to her out loud in public, the visiting the cemetery, the not visiting the cemetery, the keeping of her urn in the closet one day and the display of it in full view the next. This is your journey.” – Laura M.

“I think it’s easy to feel isolated when no one else around you has lost a parent, so I would remind them that they’re not alone. There are so many of us out there, so I would advise them to seek community and find support in navigating life without a mother together. I would also advise them to be kind and patient with themselves. It’s normal to feel strong one day and fall apart the next, whether you lost your mother recently or many years ago. Everyone’s grief journey and timeline is different, but we all experience the ups and downs.” – Alexandra V.

“Be very kind, gentle, and patient with yourself. Allow yourself time to feel each emotion, sometimes multiple times. Surround yourself with as much warmth and love as possible and use that to nurture your well-being.” – Baljot K.

What message would you like to share with others who may be struggling with similar circumstances on Mother's Day?

“I will never know what your pain feels like but my wish for you is that you know you are loved and not alone.” – Lana S.

“It’s okay that it’s hard. That doesn’t mean you won’t get through it.” – Al H.

“Mother's Day is just a day. The relationship you had with your mother is with you every day, every month, every year, and one day can't define all of the experiences that you had with her. Choose to use the day to honour her, or choose every day to honour her. That's the beautiful thing about it, because the choice will always be ours to make.”  – Laura M.

“As someone who lost my mother six years ago, I honestly still struggle with the void that she left behind. However, I find this new normal easier to navigate with the love that I have from my other amazing family, platonic, and romantic relationships. We can acknowledge that losses are difficult and permanently change our lives, while letting the grief motivate and remind us to cherish our loved ones that are still with us. The message I want to share is that though loss is a hole that may never be filled, new life can grow around it.” – Alexandra V.

“It's a day that may come with a wide range of emotions, and it is important to acknowledge and experience each one. Please take the time to reflect, write down your thoughts, and create your own meaning for this day.” –Baljot K.


Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts and insights. We appreciate their words of wisdom, and we hope that they provided some comfort and insight for other's living without a mom.

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