GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day may not be easy for everyone to celebrate for various reasons. Whether because of the loss of a parent, a child, or a complicated relationship, these days can be reminders of what we have lost.
Justin Westerhof is a Grand Rapids Counseling Services therapist, working with teens and adults dealing with anything from mood disorders and thought disorders to trauma and substance abuse.
“When we talk about Mother’s Day, we celebrate attachment, which from a mental health perspective is another way of saying love. When we single out someone or something to celebrate, we’re inviting people to say maybe I’m different or other than. In some cases, less than because there are things outside of their control. With that comes feelings of isolation,” he said.
Westerhof said that could be through depression or general sadness. He often has conversations with clients, asking who the people in their lives are who offer what mothers offer.
“It’s about who provides you that nurturing, safety, that understanding that you’re going to be OK. Mother’s Day is about finding those people and saying, I appreciate that you’re in my life, which can be more important than a $4.50 card that someone else has written for you,” he added.
For those who have lost loved ones, the day may be far from enjoyable, in which case, Westerhof said, it’s OK not to be OK.
“It’s an opportunity to have a day of grieving. Grieving, in the mental health world, is a sacred space. If that’s where you need to go, go ahead and do it but don’t do it alone,” he said.
He believes there is power in saying things out loud in order to accept losses or emotions that don’t feel acceptable. To that end, he encourages conversations around any days that may be difficult.
“To say today, I don’t feel very well. Maybe I don’t want to talk about that it’s Mother’s Day or Father’s Day and allow people to respond and say let’s talk about whatever else is precious to you today. We’re both here right now, and we’re OK. Even if we don’t feel OK, we’re just fighting.”
Starlight Ministries is another organization in West Michigan that helps anyone grieving the loss of a loved one.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, 988 is a direct, three-digit and easy-to-remember phone number for Suicide and Crisis Lifeline call centers nationwide.