Feature Stories

Mother's Day: When the holiday isn’t a Hallmark experience

Recognize that there are no ‘shoulds’ that need to be followed

By Cindy Mindell ~

Holidays carry heavy expectations for joy and happiness. What do you do when you are not able to feel these emotions?“ On Mother’s Day, for those who have lost a mother through death or other circumstances, or for those who have not been able to experience the miracle of motherhood, feelings of anger, disappointment, fear, and sorrow are common,” says Eve Moskowitz, director of clinical services at Jewish Family Service in Stamford.

Moskowitz says that there are several tools one can access to manage the day:
• Allow yourself to experience the feelings and to acknowledge the sadness and loss.
• Recognize that the day is time-limited.
• Surround yourself with people who provide love and support.
• Write your feelings in a journal. “This has become a very popular way for people to manage their feelings,” Moskowitz says. JFS will be offering programs in the fall led by writers who are also clinicians, who teach participants to expunge their feelings onto paper. “The journaling validates the feelings and then you can let them go,” she says.
• Do something you enjoy.
• Take care of yourself.
• “Most importantly, recognize that there are no ‘shoulds’ that need to be followed,” Moskowitz says. “People get stuck in ‘I’m supposed to…’ And so it’s important to forgive yourself for not having the feeling that the Hallmark company has prescribed for the day.”
A workshop for those grieving the loss of their mother as Mother’s Day approaches was held this week at Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut. Organized by the Healing Hearts Center for Grieving Children & Families, a program of Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, the workshop was led by Jenny Casey, MSW.
Regional Hospice and Home Care runs this type of workshop throughout the year, especially before holidays.
“Holidays and special occasions often intensify feelings of grief and loss,” says Joanna DeNicola, program manager of the Healing Hearts Center.
“The workshop is an opportunity for people to have their feelings validated,” Casey says. “People often don’t want to talk about death and burden friends and family. So to have a place where you can speak about this in an open and accepting environment and have others relate to it is very helpful. It helps normalize your grief; because you can feel like you’re going nuts. Grief affects us physically, cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually. The workshop helps people give expression to their feelings.”
Casey talks about the importance of self-care in all areas of one’s life.
“We talk about planning ahead for the holiday – not just letting it happen, but giving thought to what would be most helpful, and which traditions, old or new, you’re interested in doing,” she says. “My hope is to help people find meaning in their pain and encourage them to keep their hearts open.”
Most Jewish Family Service agencies in Connecticut offer bereavement support groups. Jewish Federation of Western Connecticut launches a six-week program for adults on May 10. For more information: (203) 267-3177, ext. 310.

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