Mother’s Day without Mom: Remembering lost loved ones with new Mother’s Day traditions

A lettered quote that reads,

This Mother’s Day will be my third without my mom. She died just before Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2020, which made those holidays a very challenging time of mourning and remembering. After that, I thought things would maybe get a little easier. Then Mother’s Day came around. 

Aside from visiting her gravesite, I didn’t really do much to honor or remember my mom that first Mother’s Day. I was a little at a loss, I think, and so we focused our attention on my wife, the mother of our two boys. 

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about how I can properly remember Mom—every day, but especially on special days like Mother’s Day. In this article I’ll share my ideas, as well as others from friends, family and the Hallmark writing staff. 

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After my mom died, I immediately missed her presence in my life, of course. Still do. Every day. But that first Mother’s Day hit me unexpectedly hard. Here it was, this day made for mothers—to celebrate them, honor them and appreciate them for their one-of-a-kind impact on our lives. And mine…just wasn’t there.  

Whatever kind of relationship you had with your mom (or stepmom or grandma or anyone you loved like a mother), Mother’s Day without Mom can be tough. Finding ways to remember her—the good, the not-so-good and everything in between—can be cathartic, meaningful and sometimes even beautiful. Hope these ideas help you do that. 

Ideas for the first year without Mom  

The first Mother’s Day without mom can be hard. TBH, there’s probably no avoiding some sadness. But there are also opportunities to make the day a positive one. 

And while these ideas may be especially meaningful on the first Mother’s Day without Mom, they may work for you on future Mother’s Days, too.

  • Arrange to spend time with family and friends who knew and loved her; make it a day of positive remembrance. 
  • Alternatively, take some time to yourself. Maybe take a walk in the spring weather, meditate or enjoy an activity you might have enjoyed with your mom in quiet reflection on what she meant to you. (I even “talk” to Mom.)
  • If it’s nearby, take a picnic with some of her favorite treats and beverages to her place of rest. If it’s not nearby, enjoy a meal of her favorite foods, made at home or wherever you like. 

Every Mother’s Day, I make her recipes for coleslaw and potato salad. I know she would be proud that I carried on her traditional dishes. — Sara R.

  • Do one of your mom’s favorite activities—was she a knitter? A gardener? A bowler? Honor and remember her by enjoying what she enjoyed.
  • Write her a letter expressing your feelings. See ideas on writing a letter of appreciation below.
  • Take a Mom-inspired mini road trip. Get out there—alone or with family—and visit some of the places that were special to her or the whole family. 
  • Make a Mom playlist. However you’re remembering or celebrating her, line up all the songs that most remind you of her and press play. 

To honor my mother’s memory, every Mother’s Day we play her favorite songs and cook her favorite meals. When I smell the food and hear the music, I can almost feel my mom there. — Leif R.


My sister and I are getting my mother and her sister bracelets that have my grandma’s handwriting incorporated into them. This is their first Mother’s Day without their mom. — Sara W.

  • Pictures, pictures, pictures. On your phone, social media or old-school “real” photos, seeing Mom might bring some tears, but could also bring some love and happy memories. 
  • Watch a Mom-movie or two. Something you enjoyed together, something only she liked (maybe it will mean more to you now) or a movie you love that’s about moms. 

Ideas for celebrating with kids in memory of Grandma  

Naturally, kids are often the hardest hit when their grandma passes away. Grandmas can be a huge part of a child’s life—nurturing them, caring for them, providing them with heartfelt guidance and the occasional gift, treat and grandma hug as they’ve grown. 

Here are some ways you can help kids honor their grandmother and navigate their own grief.  

  • Help or encourage your child to draw a picture or write a letter, poem or greeting card with the theme of “Things I Love About Grandma.” This can bring about happy memories and create something they can hold on to through the years. 
  • Read a favorite book or story of Grandma’s—maybe a bedtime story she liked to read to the kids, a religious or spiritual story that she held dear, or even a new story written just for her. 
  • Listen to or watch any recordings you may have of Grandma, like a voicemail, home movies or a recordable storybook she made for your little one(s).
  • Spend some time reminiscing over photos of Grandma. You could even help start a Grandma scrapbook. 
  • Take your kids to a place they used to love to go with Grandma—the playground, the museum or the movie theater, for example. 
  • Cook and enjoy one of Grandma’s favorite recipes or baked treats together. Give a toast or say a prayer as a tribute to her. 

This will be our first Mother’s Day without Gran (whose birthday is just a week after), and since we don’t live near where she’s buried, we can’t visit the cemetery with the rest of the family. We will just celebrate with her favorite yellow cake with chocolate frosting. — Danielle W.


My mom passed suddenly nine years ago, and it’s still hard to believe she’s gone. I go to the cemetery, but we also launch sky lanterns in her memory, either on the anniversary of her death or on Mother’s Day. I also have a memorial garden planted for all of my loved ones who have passed. — Wendy B.

  • Tell your kids cherished stories about your mom—from when you were a kid all the way up to her grandma-hood—and ask them what their favorite memories are. 
  • Ask your kids to think about what they’d say to Grandma if she was still here. Have (or help) them write it down and tuck it under their pillow as a special message to her. 
  • Did Grandma have any favorite sayings, mottos or prayers? Talk about them and write them down. Or maybe the kids would like to “act them out” as Grandma.

I lost my grandmother a few years ago, and I find that just keeping her in my thoughts, as well as sharing special stories about her, helps. — Jennifer M. 


I often surprise my mom by emailing a picture of her mom (my grandma) with the great grandkids…my mom is not very technical, so she wouldn’t usually access these digital photos on her own. — Kelly P.


Mom loved yellow roses. So for Mother’s Day, my kids always bring me yellow roses in memory of their Nona. — Debbie M.

  • Create a new tradition as a tribute to Grandma. Maybe go outside and catch fireflies. Or sing her favorite songs together. Anything special (and perhaps a little out of the ordinary) to honor her. 
  • If it’s nearby, leave an arrangement of her favorite flowers at her place of rest. 

Ideas for celebrating with kids in memory of their mom  

There are few things I can imagine that would be as difficult as losing your mom at a young age. Heck, it was hard enough for me at 46. Depending on their age, kids may be affected in a variety of ways, from the expected grief they’ll feel to fearing for their own well-being (especially when Mom was the primary caregiver) to things like depression and low self-esteem. 

Given that difficulty, some of these ideas may not work for every child grieving the loss of their mom or mother-figure; the adults in their life will know best. But here are some thoughts to consider to help a child remember and even celebrate Mom or another loved one in positive ways.  

  • Start the day by putting a framed photo of Mom in each child’s bedroom and/or perhaps some of her favorite flowers in the living room. 
  • Help or encourage your child to draw a picture or write a letter, poem or greeting card with the theme of “Why I Love My Mom.” This might bring some tears, but it can also bring about happy memories and create something they can hold on to through the years. See tips on what to write below. 
  • Spend the day watching some of the favorite movies or shows the kids enjoyed together with Mom.
  • Go on a “field trip” to some of Mom’s favorite places—restaurants, parks, museums, any other places or activities she enjoyed. Remember and talk about how much these places made her smile. 

My brother and I go to the beach every Mother’s Day. She liked the beach, but we mainly go to be together. She would’ve loved that. — Lynn B.


Mother’s Day can be hard, but I know our mom would not want us crying on such a beautiful day. In memory of her, we look through old photos and remember all the good times we had with her and how she made us laugh. — Mae B.

  • If you have videos of Mom at her happiest—her wedding day, birthday parties, vacations—watch some of them together as a family. 
  • Buy or make a candle that has one of Mom’s favorite scents or one that reminds the kids of Mom, and let it burn throughout the day. 
  • Invent and cook a recipe or meal that includes many of Mom’s favorite foods. It doesn’t have to be gourmet, just fun and filled with memories.
  • Help or encourage your child(ren) to start a journal or scrapbook all about Mom—the things they love, the things they miss, the things she taught them, the things they will carry with them forever. 
  • In general, especially for young kids, just try to help them have the most meaningful and happy-memory-filled day they can in whatever way works for them…it’s what Mom would want. 

Ideas for celebrating if your relationship with Mom was difficult or strained  

Let’s be honest. Family relationships can be tricky to navigate or even downright difficult. And for some people, that may be true of their relationship with their mom. After all, nobody’s perfect. 

But even if you had some hard times with your mom, remembering her on Mother’s Day may bring you some joy, peace and perhaps even closure. Here are some things you might consider doing.

  • Pause and remember some of the happy moments you might have shared. If possible, revisit the place(s) where the memory happened. 
  • Call or visit with a caring sibling—relive memories of the past, enjoy where you are in the present or talk about your hopes for the future. 
  • Talk to some of your mom’s friends or other relatives who may have stories you’ve never heard, possibly even from before she was a mother. Seeing things from another perspective may give you some helpful insight or understanding. 
  • If the day brings up too many difficult memories or feelings, do something for you. Pamper yourself, enjoy an activity that brings you peace or happiness or make it a day to celebrate the relationships with other family and friends. 
  • Buy yourself a gift that reminds you of your mom in a happy way. Or, alternatively, something that she wouldn’t approve of but makes you smile (and is healthy and safe).
  • Make a donation to a charity or volunteer somewhere in her honor—something that was important to her, is important to you or connected to the kind of person she was or the relationship you had. 
  • Write your feelings down, whatever they may be: Feelings of forgiveness, for your mom or for yourself; honest reflections on your relationship; journaling for self-care; a letter to your mom, open and honest; or turn your feelings into a poem, short story or blog post.
  • Spend some time outdoors. Let the open air refresh your mind and spirit.
  • Plant a tree, a plant, some flowers…let the day be about starting to grow something beautiful. 

If you’re supporting someone hurting on Mother’s Day  

You might be here looking for ideas for helping someone you care about as they spend Mother’s Day feeling some difficult feelings about the day. 

It’s not always an easy thing to do, but it’s often very appreciated. And we have some ideas on how to support someone who may be having a hard time.

After the loss of your mom or someone you loved like a mom, “celebrating” Mother’s Day may feel hard to do. But if you want to spend some time remembering her, it might do you some good. We hope these ideas—or some other ways that are meaningful to you—help you do that.