No matter where you are in your grieving process, holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries can trigger overwhelming feelings of loss. This is especially true the first time one of these occasions occurs after a loved one’s death. For those who have lost a mother, their first Mother’s Day without Mom can be hard to navigate. Between advertisements for gifts, restaurants offering Mother’s Day specials, and Mother’s Day cards lining store shelves, there are painful reminders everywhere. Sometimes, the complex relationships we had with our mothers add another layer of grief and sadness to work through.

On such an emotional day, it’s important to find ways to make it less painful while still respecting your need to grieve. Honoring parents who have passed can be emotionally complicated and only you know what’s the best way for you to process your grief. Below are some ideas on how to celebrate Mom on your first Mother’s Day without her — we hope this helps inspire you as you make your plans.

Do your mother’s favorite things

Spend your first Mother’s day without mom by doing her favorite things. Try her favorite hobby or activity, even if you are bad at it. Eat her favorite meal. Read a book by her favorite author. Have lunch with her best friend. Shop at her favorite boutique — buy something she would like and donate it to a woman’s shelter or a senior center. Volunteer or make a donation for causes she was passionate about. Take a nature walk in a forest and smile when you see her favorite plants and creatures. Engaging in things your mom loved will help you feel like she’s with you.

Start a new tradition

Perhaps you had a yearly tradition with your mom, and the thought of doing those things now is too painful. Mother’s Day without her will never be the same as the ones that came before, so now’s a perfect time to start a new tradition. A new tradition could involve your children or other family and friends, helping to strengthen their bond with your mother’s memory. Whether it's doing one of your mother’s favorite things or trying something new, you’ll be honoring your mother by taking care of yourself.

Spend time with a friend in a similar situation

Chances are, you have a friend or loved one who is also missing their mother. You may even know a mother who has lost her child. Though the grief may be different, Mother’s Day may also be painful for her. Spend time with this person and share memories and stories of those you are missing. Talking to someone who understands your grief can make it easier to share your stories and express your emotions without worrying about judgment. This will provide comfort to you both. Just like your mother was there for you, being emotionally present for someone who needs you is a beautiful way to honor your mom. 

Write her a letter

Journaling is a cathartic way to work through feelings. Write your mom a letter letting her know you are missing her on Mother’s Day. Tell her what has been happening in your life since she’s been gone. Write down some of your favorite memories. Make a list of the things you miss most about her and the ways you promise to honor her memory. Sometimes writing what we are thinking helps us process our emotions and feel connected to the letter’s recipient, even if they’ll never read it. 

Practice self-care

No matter what you do on your first Mother’s Day without her, make sure self-care is your top priority. Self-care looks different to everybody. Perhaps you enjoy a nice bath to unwind, or feel great when you exercise. Treating yourself to a massage or acupuncture may be how you show love to yourself. Maybe relaxing with a good book brings you comfort or spending time with people you love helps you recharge. Doing what brings you joy may feel like you aren’t grieving “the right way” but think of it this way — would your mom want you to suffer? Of course not. Protecting your emotional well-being is a perfect way to celebrate your mom and the care she always showed you. 

Social media tributes

Many people like to post loving tributes to social media on a day like Mother’s Day as a way to celebrate their loved ones. This may be a healthy option for you, too — writing about your mom may bring you comfort, especially if other people respond with their loving memories of her. However, scrolling social media may also cause pain. Seeing pictures of happy families celebrating with their own mothers may not be in your best interest on your first Mother’s Day without your own mom. Be gentle with yourself, and if you find social media to be triggering, stay offline until you feel ready.

How to help a grieving loved one

If you are comforting a loved one grieving their mother, being there to listen as they talk about her is one of the most helpful things you can do. A child grieving their mother also needs your love and attention. Whether you are helping an adult or a child, simply being there to show you care and that they aren’t alone will go a long way to providing the comfort they need as they grieve.

Read more: What to say instead of sorry for your loss?