Motherless Mother's Day: How one woman has created a healing space for those who grieve

Every May, companies blast out commercials urging people to buy gifts for Mother’s day. The day is meant to honor the role mothers play in our lives, but for those who have suffered a loss, it can be a painful reminder of the void that remains.

Alicia Forneret lost her mother in 2016, and feels the weight of the holiday every year.

“I know how challenging it is to get to this weekend, after seeing all of the ads, after seeing all of the emails popping up in your inbox saying ‘buy flowers for your mom,’ 'buy your mom a gift.’ "I can’t do that, and a lot of other people can’t do that,” Forneret told Yahoo Life.

Creating a safe space for people who have lost their mothers became a priority for Forneret, who struggled to find appropriate grief resources after her mother's death. “I really wanted something that resonated with the experience I was having. Which was very different from doves, and rainbows and recovery. It was anger, it was confusion,” she explained.

In 2019, Forneret launched her first Motherless Mother's Day event, where people could gather to share, grieve, and avoid the nonstop questions about their mother’s on Mother’s day. It became a space where participants could feel taken care of and where feelings could be validated.

In 2020, the event was totally digital and consisted of 33 events in 3 days. This year, the event has been renamed to “Caregiving 2021” and will extend until Father’s Day weekend, placing the emphasis on the overall experience of losing a guardian.

“So this event will include people who are grieving the loss of any caregiver. Mothers Day isn’t just hard for people whose moms have died, and Father's Day isn’t just hard for people whose dads have died. The figures in our life that serve those purposes of caregivers and guardians take many shapes and forms, so we’re just opening it up to anyone who needs support this year,” said Forneret.

Video Transcript

ALICA FORNERET: One of the first things that a good friend of mine said to me after my mom died, was, welcome to the club. I know how challenging it is to get to this weekend after seeing all the emails popping in your inbox saying buy flowers for your mom, buy your mom a gift. I can't do that and a lot of other people can't do that.

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BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: Hey everyone, I'm Brittany Jones-Cooper. And in this episode of "Unmuted," we're exploring the other side to Mother's Day. Joining us is Alisa Forneret, who created an online community that explores grief and healing. You know, grief is a tough topic, why was it something that you wanted to talk about and share so openly?

ALICA FORNERET: I got into the space after my mom died. She was an artist, she was a nurse. She lived a very full life raising me and my sister. She died in 2016. When I was looking for resources, I really wanted something that resonated with the experience that I was having, which was very different from doves and rainbows and recovery. It was anger. It was confusion. When your parent, or your caregiver, or someone close to you dies, and you meet someone else who's had that same experience, there's things you don't have to explain to those people. And so creating a centralized location for people who have those experiences, not together, they sort of all be in that middle ground together, that's why I've been doing the work that I've been doing around mother loss.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You mention all of these different ways that people experience grief, and I think that's so powerful. Because sometimes I think there's a belief that there's a right way to grieve and a wrong way to grieve. What have you learned about that?

ALICA FORNERET: That it's absolutely not true. Grief is very individualistic and unique. I personally, define grief in my work as a full-body, full-being experience that we have after the death or the loss of someone. The grief that we experience is multilayered, and it is impacted by so many parts of what make us, us in our lived experience as human beings.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: I was really empowered to see that last year you launched the Motherless Mother's Day event. So can you take us through why you started that event, and some of the feedback from it.

ALICA FORNERET: The point of the event was just to all gather in a space where we would not have to deal with people talking to us about Mother's Day on Mother's Day, and also where we could be taken care of, and validated in the fact that, that day is harder. Last year we did 33 events in three days. This year I'm expanding it from Mother's Day weekend all the way to Father's Day weekend. This event will include people who are grieving the loss of any caregiver. The figures in our life that serve those purposes of caregivers and guardians take many shapes and forms. So we're just opening it up to anyone who needs support this year.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: What advice do you give to those who have lost their mothers with Mother's Day approaching, to take care of themselves and to look out for themselves because it can be a very emotionally draining time.

ALICA FORNERET: Whether it's with a friend, or a family member, or a community member, or a digital space, or yourself, find some time. Breathe and acknowledge that this week can be hard. And around Mother's Day, honestly, I take time to tell people about my mom. To be able to say her name and tell stories about her is, honestly, the best way for me to feel good this time of year, is to remember the positive things about her.

BRITTANY JONES-COOPER: You bring so much light that I can just imagine the influence that she had on you and continues to have on you. I appreciate you creating this space for healing for people, and for joining us today. Thank you so much.

ALICA FORNERET: Thank you.

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