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How to get through Mother's Day when you've lost your mum

Lisa Salmon asks grief experts for advice on how to help bereaved and heartbroken children and adults handle what for them is one of the most difficult dates in the calendar

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A problem shared: encourage your children to talk about their feelings

A problem shared: encourage your children to talk about their feelings

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A problem shared: encourage your children to talk about their feelings

Mother's Day is a time to celebrate everything our mums do for us and make them feel special. But for people whose mums have passed away, it can be a heartbreaking day brimming with memories, nostalgia and painful longing for the mother whose loss has left such a gaping hole in the family.

Such feelings are something Lianna Champ understands only too well. The funeral director and grief recovery specialist lost her mother in 2011.

"I thought I would never feel normal again. I felt like a bicycle that had its stabilisers ripped off far too soon. I wobbled - a lot," she says.

Over time she came to terms with her grief and wrote the book How to Grieve Like A Champ to help other bereaved people deal with their loss.

"It's vital that we allow ourselves to feel the pain of our grief, wallow in it and come out the other side," she says.

"This is how we heal - by recognising and experiencing emotional pain.

"We must allow ourselves to survive and not to blind ourselves from finding meaningful ways to continue the bonds we have with our mums."

Sarah Harris, director of bereavement services and education at Child Bereavement UK (childbereavementuk.org, (CBUK), adds: "While Mother's Day is a joyous occasion for many, it can be a difficult day for children and families when a parent has died.

"We want to offer guidance and practical ways to help those navigating feelings of grief, particularly those that can arise around special occasions like Mother's Day."

Here, Champ and CBUK, working in partnership with Busy Bees Nurseries (busybeeschildcare.co.uk), suggest ways bereaved children of any age can get through Mother's Day.

Reminisce with others who loved her

Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and contact your siblings or whoever else was special to your mum. "By reminiscing, you're showing how important she was and still is in your life. Sharing memories provides a link to those we've lost. There will be tears and longing, but we have to embrace the life of memories we've made together," Champ says.

Keep talking

CBUK points out that as Mother's Day approaches, children who've lost their mum may hear other children talking about theirs and feel excluded, upset or confused. "It's likely they'll have questions about why their mum's no longer here. Try to answer these honestly and openly, using age-appropriate language," says Harris. "While it's natural to want to protect them from upsetting conversations, children are more able to deal with difficult truths than we may think."

Be with people you love

Don't cut yourself off from others, advises Champ. Be with people you love and feel comfortable around.

Create a new ritual for the future

Old rituals can be hard to let go of and you may feel this will take you further away from your mum. "Trying to do things the same and keeping traditions shared with our mums can make us feel even lonelier. Therefore, we should try something new," Champ says.

Buy your mum a card and talk to her

"Each year my sister buys my mum a Mother's Day card and pins it on her family kitchen board, gets the photos out and talks about what her mum would be saying to her about where she is in her life," says Champ. "Imagining mum there with her words of wisdom keeps her positive influence shining. This is a wonderful way of bringing your mum's advice to you in those times of need."

Buy her a plant

Champ buys an orchid for her mum every year. "The times I feed and nurture it, I am with her," she says.

Create memories

Doing something in memory of your mum can be a positive way to mark the day, says CBUK. Perhaps you could cook her favourite meal, look at photos, or visit a place that reminds you of her with your child. "Creating a memory jar or drawing a picture can also be great ways to mark the day," Harris says.

Plant bulbs

Mother's Day is at the beginning of spring, a time of renewal. Champ suggests planting bulbs for next year. "You'll be surprised how much watching them grow will make you feel your mum is smiling down on you," she explains.

There's no right or wrong way to grieve

Don't put yourself under pressure to conform to what others expect, stresses CBUK. While some families get comfort from creating new traditions, others prefer to have a quieter day. "Ask your child how they'd like to spend their time and include them in making choices about how they'd like to remember their mum," says Harris.

It's fine to cry - or be happy

It's okay to shed some tears for your mum, advises Champ. "We need to share our tears as well as laughter. Don't berate yourself when you have happy moments - this is perfectly healthy and normal," she says.

Involve your child's nursery or school

Speak to your child's teachers about how they'll manage any Mother's Day activities, so your child doesn't feel upset. For instance, would they like to make a card to remember their mum, or would they prefer to make a card for another family member? Ensuring children feel included can reduce any feelings of isolation, says CBUK.

Give your mum a hug

Champ suggests that when you need to give your mum a hug, put your arms around those you share your life with.

For bereavement support, call CBUK on 0800 02 888 40

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