There’s no right or wrong amount of time to grieve the passing of your mother. Sometimes, these feelings can rush back years after your loss.
Losing your mother at any age can be a traumatic experience. The loss may be sudden, or you may have witnessed a long decline in health.
Your initial grief may be severe, followed by moments of sorrow even as time goes by. Sometimes, the effects of parental loss can affect your daily life, weeks or years later.
No matter the kind of relationship you had, losing your mother can feel overwhelming. Support is out there. There are many others just like you, who have stories of loss to share.
In the moment, it can be difficult to focus on much beyond the loss of your mother. Grief can occur in stages, with immediate symptoms.
According to the study, women who experience the loss of a mother are more likely than men to:
- binge drink
- have a greater decline in self-esteem
- have a lower level of personal mastery (personal growth)
And a 2015 study found that, when losing a parent, women have a more intense grief response and more difficulty adjusting to the loss.
Overall, loss can cause a variety of physical and psychological effects. A
- cardiac issues
- immune disorders
- high blood pressure
A 2021 study found that parental loss is linked with depression and a compromised sense of self in young adults.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), a reference guide that mental healthcare professionals use, notes an array of normal emotions in the year following parental loss.
These feelings may include:
Losing your mother can mean more than clinical symptoms. You may feel like you’ve lost an important part of your support system. You may experience regret for lost family traditions and cultural knowledge.
There may be times when you wonder how successfully you’re fulfilling your own role as a mother.
You may also find relationships within your family are now strained. Siblings and other parental figures might feel distant. They may need their own time to grieve, or may not be emotionally available in a way your mother once was.
The effects of grief after the loss of a mother are different for everyone. Grief that impairs your daily functioning, or persists for longer than a year, may require the support of a mental health professional.
There’s nothing that can replace the presence of your mother, but there are ways to help ease the burden of loss.
You may find some solace when you:
Keep up with traditions
It may help your grief to incorporate your favorite traditions from your mother. This could mean making recipes she used to cook, or using the same fragrances she used in her home.
Starting your own traditions may help you find comfort knowing your children will have both yours and your mother’s traditions to carry on with them.
Focus on happy memories
It can be painful to think back on the happy times when you’re grieving the loss of your mother. As time goes on, however, you may find comfort in happy reminders such as pictures, books, or keepsakes.
Look to other maternal figures
Being a mother doesn’t always mean a blood connection. You may have many motherly figures in your life.
If you’ve lost your mother, finding another maternal support can help you retain those feelings of guidance and understanding.
Mindfulness is the ability to focus on the moment and not follow thoughts down an emotional path.
When you recall a painful memory related to the loss of your mother, mindfulness may help you acknowledge the memory but not dwell on it.
Honor your mother
Honoring your mother’s memory will mean something different to everyone. You might honor her by donating to her favorite charity. Maybe your mother always wanted you to climb Mount Everest.
Finding goal-oriented ways to honor your mother may also provide a sense of personal accomplishment.
Many other people, children and adults, have experienced parental loss. By offering your own maternal support, you may become an important part of someone’s journey with grief.
Seek local and professional support
Sometimes, it may feel as though nothing you do will ease the loss of your mother. There’s no need to meet this challenge alone.
Local support groups, online chat forums, and mental health professionals can partner with you through the grieving process. The American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator can help you find someone who specializes in grief recovery.
If your grief is becoming unbearable, help is available right now
If your grief is becoming very overwhelming and you’re considering self-harm or suicide, help is available right now:
- Call a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. It’s available 24/7 and offers free, confidential support.
- Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- Not in the United States? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
Daughters who lose their mother may experience grief differently than sons.
Cultural and tradition losses, plus a lack of maternal guidance, can leave you feeling lost and disconnected from those closest to you.
While there’s no way to completely replace your mother’s presence in your life, there are ways to honor her memory and regain your sense of self.
If you’ve experienced extreme grief for more than a year, or feel as though you are having trouble completing daily tasks, you may find speaking with a mental health professional helpful.
Remember, you are not alone. Support is available right now.
Here are some books that may help as well:
- “Healing After the Loss of Your Mother: A Grief & Comfort Manual” by Elaine Mallon
- “Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss” by Hope Edelman
- “How to Survive the Loss of a Parent: A Guide for Adults” by Lois F. Akner with Catherine Whitney