About a year after losing her mother, Bonnie Kennedy was driving home after dropping off her daughter at dance class.
She was zipping down Highway 99 from White Rock, B.C., and when she noticed how beautiful the sky was in front of her, she could only think about her mother.
“I remember saying out loud, ‘Oh Mom, I wish you could see this,'” she tells Global News. “I was enveloped with an amazing feeling of love wrapping around me. It was such a strong feeling that my foot came off the gas pedal for a second or two.”
The 64-year-old retired statistician from Delta, B.C., says it was that day she became aware that even though her mother wasn’t with her, she was out there elsewhere.
“Her love for me had never died and was as strong and loving as ever. That is what keeps me smiling, my mom still loves me.”
Losing a parent is one of life’s most difficult experiences, and many of us have to say goodbye to our mothers at a young age. Psychotherapist Lucia Gallegos of Toronto says the month of May and Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for anyone who has lost their mothers, and for many, relationships with our mothers are unique.
“After we are born, mothers are often the first contact most people have … and it doesn’t matter when you lose your mother, as a child or adult, it is still difficult.”
Losing ‘a best friend’
Kennedy’s mother Dorothy Mae passed away in August 2004 due to a stroke and heart attack. She was 73.
Dorothy Mae Kennedy. Photo provided by Bonnie Kennedy.
“My relationship with my mother was a typical mother-daughter relationship that evolved into a wonderful loving friendship. She was my best friend among my BFFs,” she continued.
Some of her favourite memories of her mother include travelling to dog shows, going to theatres and shopping. She even remembers how supportive her mother was when she became a mother herself.
“When I surprised myself and my partner by becoming pregnant at age 40 my mom travelled from Kelowna, B.C., at every opportunity before, during and after the birth of our daughter,” she continues. “I don’t know how we would have managed without her. She was always the calm in the eye of a storm, the person I could turn to and be reassured everything would be all right.”
Rajan Gahunia of Brampton, Ont., said goodbye to his mother Kalvinder Gahunia at the age of 10. She had lost her battle to cancer at the age of 40.
Celebrating moms no longer with us
For anyone grieving on Mother’s Day, social media can also be a trigger. But Gahunia says he uses the day to reflect on his own memories with his mom.
Rajan Gahunia with his mother, father and brother. Photo provided by Rajan Gahunia.
“I get to see other people make posts about how much their mothers mean to them, and that allows me to reflect and reminisce about the good times I had while my mother was still alive,” he says. “I send a prayer above and let her know I’m thankful to be on this Earth because of her, and let her know that I am always thinking of her. She is forever cherished.”
For Kennedy, Mother’s Day means an array of cards, small gifts and a BBQ. She also doesn’t keep fresh cut flowers around that day because her mother was allergic.
How to cope with the loss
Gallegos says there are several things people who have lost mothers can do on Mother’s Day.
For starters, allow yourself to feel emotions. “Find a way to validate those emotions and be around people you can talk to,” she says.
Honour your mother by doing things she loved to do or by going through old memories via photos of videos. You can even carry on old Mother’s Day traditions even if she is no longer with you.
Celebrating is one thing, but for some, this isn’t possible. Social media can also be a trigger, she adds, especially when people post sweet messages of photos about their own mothers.
“We know it’s going to be painful and if you know your trigger is addictive or makes you angry or sad, take time for yourself.”
Self-care is important during any grieving process and if you need additional support, contact a professional to work through the loss.
Gahunia says don’t suppress your feelings. “Let them out, share them, talk about them. Get together with family and friends who were a part of her life as well and talk about all the good she brought to everyone’s lives.”
Kennedy adds dealing with the loss of a parent is devastating and personal, but it is important for her to share her mother’s legacy with her daughter.
“I talk about my mom to my daughter so that she never forgets her grandma.