Mother’s Day – How to avoid and cope with it as a survivor of emotional abuse

Having decided on keeping a no contact policy with my mother in 2016: it meant that for 2017 there would be no Mothering Sunday expedition. I thought that would be quite easy. What could be better than not having to spend time walking on eggshells around an emotional abuser?

I had not truly understood before the sheer megaphone volume of Mother’s Day in everyday life, it felt that every single place I turned online seemed to have the same message; “YOUR MOTHER IS THE MOST WONDERFULLY SPECIAL PERSON IN YOUR LIFE AND YOU MUST ADORE HER!”

The answer to that in my case is: No. She isn’t and I don’t.

Having searched for ways to block this distressing consumerist and societal message I found there was not as much I could do as I’d hoped. At least not without reprogramming the entire internet.

Most written articles I’ve seen when searching for ways to avoid or cut down these reminders are either more consumerist “advice” under misleading headers or are meant for people grieving the death of their much-loved parent. Understandable and necessary as it is to help those who have lost a loved one, it does enforce an invisible narrative that to raise the subject of abusive mothers is a) not usual and b) not wanted.

Given that situation: I am writing my own guide from my experiences and here it is for the very first year of no contact-

  1. If you haven’t done it before; the best time to start blocking content on social media is probably three or four weeks before Mothering Sunday in the U.K or Mother’s Day in other countries that mark the same event. I’ve found it is the sheer number of ads, articles, idealised imagery and so on, for weeks on end, across multiple platforms that is just too much to take.
  2. Set aside some time to put in place as many filter terms as you possibly can on e-mails and social media feeds. You may have to look carefully at what terms are most widely used, which means readying yourself mentally. I have noticed on Twitter when I view it in my desktop browser that any re-tweets will get around hashtag filters, so if you’re following a feed that is likely to post a lot of Mother’s Day items (e.g handicraft/artisan promotion feeds, clothing, cosmetics, food or drink- related companies) then you’re better off to temporarily mute or unfollow that account.
  3. Try to find a decent ad-blocker for your browser, if you haven’t already. Unwanted web ads are everywhere and cutting out ads that are for seasonally themed holidays and celebrations is a help for more than just Mother’s Day.
  4. If you find you cannot feel safe or happy online then try to be clear as you can to friends, family or other loved ones that you will be taking a break from being active on social media as much, or at all, during these kind of events.
  5. If you’ve already gone non-contact and set up filters; the next key thing is to think about how you want to spend the day. Any thoughts you’ve ever had of where you’d rather be, or what you’d prefer to be doing, rather than sitting in a room with someone who wants to emotionally hurt and manipulate you, then this is the time to do it. I chose to go with a combination of reading books and cooking from recipes I’d been wanting to try. Whatever it is that you do make sure it is what you enjoy doing, as much as possible for your given circumstances.
  6. It is okay to feel hurt, angry, upset, disappointed, grieved or even not to feel anything at all on what is supposed to be a “special” day. I am not a qualified mental health professional, so I cannot give specific advice on an individual’s emotions and experience. However, I do know how I felt for years and it was that I should not feel negative emotions or express them, because it was me who was wrong. Find whatever helpful, constructive support you can to remind yourself that you are not alone in what you have experienced and that what you feel is valid, whether that is through a partner, friends, understanding family members, a counsellor/therapist or other trusted advisor.

I hope what I’ve written here will be a help to those who have experienced similar abuse and who are trying to heal their lives. If there are any suggestions on coping with difficulties around Mother’s Day or other family-related holidays that could be of help, please do leave a comment.