When Mother’s Day or Father’s Day are difficult days

Mother's Day and Father's Day (c) KarinSieger.com

We all have our own unique relationship to our parents and our children – the ones we have, the ones we wish we had, the ones we never had, the ones we have lost, the ones we may be about to lose, the ones we no longer talk with, the ones we love and hate.

We all have our own unique stories. Often Mother’s Day and Father’s Day brings these stories back alive and reignites difficult emotions, unresolved issues, memories, hopes or disappointments, sadness and grief. On that day we may realise again, that we have not moved on as much as we had hoped, or that we struggle with what may lie ahead.

If that is you, then how can you deal with the day and the challenges or difficulties it represents for you?

Dealing with difficult emotions

More often than not, what gets in our way and stops us from moving on are fear, resentment, guilt and (self) criticism. Our thinking, feeling and pattern of relating to others and ourselves are often deeply affected by any one or a combination of these attitudes.

This is a heavy burden to carry, which takes energy and can keep us in the victim mode. Over time we can get very rigid in this position, which overshadows our view of life and informs the experiences we have. Unless we can pro-actively deal with fear, resentment, guilt and criticism we are bound to live our lives in a way that will repeat more of the same.


Often we find it hard to accept the limitations of others and our own.  If our mother or father did not know how to love and positively accept themselves, then s/he may not have been able to teach us how to love and value ourselves. If we experienced a lot of criticism and doubt in our childhood, then there is a good chance we have been left with a tendency to be highly critical of others and ourselves. If our children have not turned out the way we hoped, we may carry disappointment and a sense of guilt.

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If one parent or both have died we may be grieving their loss. If we have lost a child or have never been able to conceive, then we too may be grieving for those who have passed too soon, or for the chance we have never had.

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Some say that the antidote to those very understandable and human difficulties is the willingness to love, forgive and to let go of the past. All too easily can we get stuck in the past, concede control and power of our lives to what has or could have been. With that frame of mind, perspective on life, and a heavy heart, it is difficult to move on.

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Allowing ourselves to become less rigid and entertaining the belief that we/you have done the best we could is an important start in addressing some of the difficulties we may experience on an occasion like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Changing for yourself

The second step is to realise and accept that we cannot change others, but only ourselves. Ultimately, we all have choices and we are responsible for our individual lives and the consequences of the choices we make – that goes for our parents as much as for our children (especially if grown up).

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If you recognise fear, resentment, guilt and criticism in your life, you may also find that these are very potent experiences. Even if you want something else for your life (like peace of mind, self worth and feeling safe) you may find yourself rejecting any attempt to make these come true. Because fear and self criticism may keep you trapped for fear of failure or pain, which in turn feeds resentment and guilt.

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It is a vicious circle, which can be brought to an end – without blame or judgement. We all do what we do and think what we think for a reason. Sometimes in life we may recognise that pattern, accept it for what it is, and we may be ready and willing to move on.

Moving forward

If some of this resonates with you, then perhaps this Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be your opportunity to let the past be what it is, step out of its confines and start choosing what you want to do next. You are in charge of how you think about yourself and your life. You are entitled to and capable of repeating negative thoughts and beliefs. You are equally entitled to and capable of adopting a less restrictive and more positive attitude towards yourself, life and the world around you.

If you feel any internal resistance or disbelief about what I have said, than your are on the first step to change, which starts with noticing resistance, not fighting it, but not giving in to it either. Move gracefully through the fear that resistance is based on and you may find the first hurdle dissolving very quickly, if you let it.

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Article first published on Counselling Directory

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