05/07/2011 02:45 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Parentless Parents: Strategies for a Better Mother's Day

It's often difficult to remember your mother and rejoice over your life as a mother at the same time. From nursery school on, we are trained to celebrate this holiday, first by making our parents cards out of construction paper and pipe cleaners, and later by buying them gifts. Our role as sons and daughters is clearly defined. And when we become parents, we also know what we're supposed to do: receive all the attention and smile!

But when my mom passed away when I was 25, before I was married and had children of my own, the holiday changed forever. The truth is, being a mom hasn't removed the part of me that was also a daughter, and sometimes Mother's Day is just a painful reminder of her absence. Remarkably, nearly 50 percent of moms and dads who took the Parentless Parents Survey for my new book "Parentless Parents" find themselves grieving more on Mother's Day than celebrating.

So what can you do to make Mother's Day less painful and a lot more joyful?

I think the best antidote is to honor your mother, despite her absence. And not just privately. Share your thoughts. Tell stories to your children. Take the time to cook a special dish that reminds you of your mom.

It's also important to connect with other parents who understand what you're going through. It's not automatic that your friends "get" what it's like to be a parentless parent, and sometimes not even your spouse understands, particularly if he hasn't lost a parent. "Parentless Parents" has a Group page on Facebook, and it's a great place to feel validated and supported and to exchange ideas.

Last, I think it's hugely important to take care of yourself. Don't wait for anyone to give you what you need. If you're having a tough Mother's Day, give yourself permission to take a step away from your family and do something just for you. Go for a walk. Get a massage. In essence, be a parent to yourself.