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Mother's Day: A Painful Reminder For Daughters Without Mothers

Many women will celebrate Mother's Day this year with traditional home-spun fanfare as they visit their Mom or enjoy queen-for-a-day treatment from their children.

But for many women who have lost their mothers, the day may be a hurtful reminder of the unique and loving bond that no longer exists, triggering painful grief. Simply getting through the day may be a struggle.

Cynthia Oliver, director of the Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support in Squirrel Hill, said the death of a mother can be a particularly difficult loss for a woman.

"A mother is the one you often turn to for advice and guidance as you navigate life," she said. "When a woman becomes a mother herself, she can find it particularly difficult to not have this special bond to rely on. Sadness, depression, anger, guilt and other emotions of grief can last for months or years; there's no set timetable."

Grief is a process, not an event. And one of the keys to managing this painful process is to have steady emotional support, such as the "Daughters Without Mothers" bereavement support group that the Good Grief Center offers, Oliver said.

The Daughters Without Mothers group meets at the Center, 2717 Murray Ave., from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month. The next meeting is May 17. Advance registration is required by calling 412-224-4700.

According to Oliver, the group offers participants compassionate support, nurturing, a healing atmosphere, and a safe place to explore how the loss of their mother has impacted their lives. Participants are at various stages of loss. For some, the loss is new; for others, months or years have passed, enabling them to offer others the benefit of their experience.

Women who may not be comfortable with a group environment can opt for individual support at the Good Grief Center by phone or in person, Oliver said.

The Center is the only bereavement resource agency in the region offering comprehensive grief services that include one-to-one emotional support, on-site support groups, grief resource and referral information, and a lending library. Services are confidential and available free of charge for individuals and families.

"The loss of a parent forever changes you," Oliver said. "It's perfectly normal to reach out to other people who have suffered a similar loss and can offer support and guidance when you're experiencing one of the most important struggles of your life. It doesn't mean that there's something wrong with you. Grief it's a natural part of life and even the strongest people can benefit from extra help and knowing what to expect."

To register for the support group, call agency Director Cynthia Oliver at 412-224-4700 or send e-mail to For information about the Center, visit

The Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support offers these tips for adult women who are grieving their mothers:

  • Grief is work, requiring time and energy. Write Mom a letter. Say what you would tell her if she was still physically here.
  • Ask a trusted friend or coworker what helped them when their mother died.
  • Do something positive in memory of your mother. Choose an activity that will connect you to her, such as organizing a special family photo album. Repeat this activity as often and as long as you feel the need.
  • Buy some flowers, set them in a vase on a table, and tell your mother aloud that they are for her. It may give you comfort to know that you can still buy something to honor her.
  • Seek out others who are helpful and supportive. Do not feel that you need to do this alone. Someone who has been through grief can often empathize with you. This may be a friend, family member, counselor or bereavement support group.
  • Take care of yourself. Give yourself time and space to heal. Get enough rest. Eat nourishing food. Give yourself a break.

The Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support (GGC) creates a safe place where people who have experienced the pain of death can work through their loss and learn to manage their grief. For no-cost emotional support by phone or in person, grief education and referrals to community resources, contact GGC at 2717 Murray Avenue, Pittsburgh (Squirrel Hill);; 412-224-4700. Or visit

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