Dealing with Mother’s Day When You’ve Lost Your Mother

When others are gathering as families celebrating with their mothers, many have lost their mothers and may feel empty and lonely. Here are some suggestions for you to handle this if you had a warm, nurturing relationship:

  1. Gather with your family and each one tell a story about her and how she affected their life. One way to start would be,” I remember the time when she_______and how I think this affected me was_______. Don’t forget to tell funny events too!
  2. You can read a story about your mother’s struggles and triumphs of growing up and facing challenges (this will take preparation before she died, such as, interviewing her by video or audio). Don’t forget to share pictures of her through her life.
  3. You can ask for the opportunity to sit with your spouse or partner and talk about your grief of missing your mother (a wonderful gift your partner can give you to listen and be there for you).
  4. Establish a ritual, such as, having a special place setting at the table for her when the family gathers for a meal.
  5. Honor your mother’s memory by doing a nice deed for another.
  6. Contribute to one of her favorite charities.

How do you deal with having had a difficult relationship with your mother and knowing this can never be repaired? This is another kind of grief of letting go of the dream of having a special relationship with her.

  1. Write an unsent letter to her writing down all the things you weren’t able to share together – all your disappointments. Ask your partner for support by listening to your letter without comment – perhaps holding your hands and looking at you with “loving eyes.”
  2. Find out if there were some good memories from other relatives.
  3. Plan a special day for you and your partner or family to celebrate your life and relationships.
  4. Focus on positive aspects of your life and how you were able to overcome problems despite your mother’s limitations and lack of support.

Some of you have lost your mothers when you were children and may feel “abandoned” even though your mother may have died of an illness. Whatever the circumstances, Mother’s Day may bring up these memories and you may experience great sadness. Yes, even if this was a long time ago.

  1. A good book to read about this subject is Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman.
  2. Ask other relatives to tell you stories about your mother and what value you played in her life.

On this Mother’s Day, may you celebrate your meaningful connections with others.

Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.

The ‘Encounter’ Between Couples in a Relationship

I will share with you a special YouTube video by Hedy Schliefer, one of my teachers. This video runs about 20 minutes, so sit back and enjoy!

The video is about the ‘meeting, the encounter’ in the ‘relationship space’ between a couple.

From Hedy Schleifer: “My life’s work has crystalized into one single overarching idea. It is the idea of the three invisible connectors: the space, the bridge and the encounter. When people make these three invisible connectors visible in their lives, and embrace them fully, the “miracle” of connection happens. The space is the relational space “between” people. In order to honor that space, one must cross the bridge, and bring one’s full and authentic presence to the world of the “other.” And in doing so, the perfect conditions are established to create a true “meeting.”

Video:

With permission from Hedy Schleifer.

Couples’ Difficulties in Communicating

Why do so many couples have such difficulty communicating with each other?

Many couples come in both believing ‘You and I are one, and I’m the one.’ Yes, they are in a power struggle and they want me to mediate and tell them who is right. They say, we’re here to learn to communicate. Both are reactive to the other and want the other to change. I plant a new idea for them to consider, “We’re not going for agreement. You are each unique and have different perceptions of the same thing.” Yes, your goal is to understand where your partner is coming from without agreeing. How do we accomplish this?

One successful way for couples to communicate is ‘The Couple’s Dialogue,’ developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix found in his book Getting the Love You Want.

This is a new way of relating to each other – slowing down the process, calming our reactive patterns, and focusing on our partners and how they view the same situation. This is a tall order when we live in this fast paced society and want to solve problems quickly.

  1. First, make an appointment to discuss an issue with your partner when you are both calm.
  2. At the meeting, you may sit across from each other holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes and taking some deep breaths.
  3. Decide who will present an issue and who will visit for the meeting. The visitor will listen without judgment trying to understand where their partner is coming from.
  4. The sender in a low, soft voice will present the issue from their own viewpoint, without blaming their partner or criticizing. For example, the sender may say a complaint: “I get frustrated when you leave the dishes around” (complaint) instead of putting your partner down by saying “You’re a slob,” which is attacking your partner’s character.
  5. When your partner is finished presenting the complaint, the visitor can summarize what they heard and how it makes sense from their partner’s point of view – not their own.
  6. Be sure to schedule another meeting, so the visitor can share how they perceive the situation.

This way of communicating will take much practice and I suggest you start with non-volatile topics first, such as, “What I value about you,” “My frustrations at work.”

The beauty of this is when you can do it, your relationship grows and the ‘relationship space’ is full of warm, loving energy. If you get stuck, you can see an Imago Therapist to take you through the process. One in your area can be found on the Imago Relationship Therapy website (or see my link page for other suggestions).

Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.

The Importance of Greeting

Welcome to Ann’s Blog from the Columbia Marriage and Relationship Center. This is my first blog to all my clients and new readers!

I will write about different topics for improving your relationships. I invite you to join my blog and let me know what other topics about relationships you are interested in.

Do you recognize the importance of greeting your partner each day and putting positive ‘energy’ into your relationship?

When we are in a relationship over a period of time, we tend to focus on the negative traits of our partner and what needs are not being met. We may forget how important it is to keep building up the relationship with positive comments and appreciations. When you come home each day and meet, this is a time for an enthusiastic greeting-perhaps a hug and inquiring ‘how was your day?’ Yes, focusing on each other. There is a relationship space between partners. In that space can be a lot of negativity (yelling, unkind words) or a ‘rich nurturing soup’ with loving, kind comments and deeds.

Partners may feel dismissed and taken for granted when they go out of their way to fulfill their partner’s needs. Become aware when your partner does something special for you and thank them. Take time to show your partner you care by doing little things for them, such as, a backrub or getting them tea. Remember your partner may feel cared for in different ways than you would, such as, by touch with a hug, or with words, kind deeds, or even a small gift like flowers or a magazine. Check out the article on my website on ‘101 Romantic Ideas’ for more suggestions.

Dr. John Gottman, a researcher on successful marriages, talks about the 5:1 rule-5 positive comments to 1 complaint. So, over time by building up this ‘nurturing’ relationship space, lays the groundwork for listening to changes your partner will like from you and vice versa. The key to this is how you present your complaint and timing is everything. This will be a topic for another blog.

How have some of these suggestions worked in your relationship? What other ones have you used to build up your ‘relationship space?’

Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.