Life is marked by many milestones. Graduating from high school or college. Moving away from home. Landing a serious job. Maybe getting married or becoming a parent. Some events we work hard to achieve. Others we work equally hard to avoid. But, with the passage of time, many are simply unavoidable.

My brother and I crossed such a line this past winter when we lost our mom. For years we were the ones to cook her burnt toast and half-baked home-fries on Mother’s Day and carry breakfast to her room on a tray. As I got older, I sent gifts of fragrant soaps and family pictures and bouquets. My brother was likely more creative.

Now that I find myself on the other side of an unwanted demarcation, I can either ignore the upcoming holiday (at least where my own mom is concerned) or find new ways to make the most of it. If you, like me, are missing your mom this holiday, here are four ways worth celebrating:

  1. Look beyond your loss. Grief is naturally self-centered. While there’s nothing wrong with this, habitually focusing on myself isn’t likely to help the hurt go away. Yes, there’s a time to weep, but experiencing grief also helps us to recognize the needs of others. Send flowers or an encouraging note to a mom you know is struggling.
  2. Be thankful. We can either count our sorrows or our blessings, but what we give our attention to will ultimately grow more powerful. Set aside a special time this holiday to pray or write about the ways in which you are thankful for your mom—or another mother figure, if your own wasn’t around. Thinking about the positive will lift your spirits instead of weighing you down.
  3. Share the love. Recognize other women who’ve played a significant role in your life. Send a card or pick up the telephone and call an aunt, teacher, mother-in-law, neighbor or other female role model who has loved and supported you and tell her how much she means to you.
  4. Give. When I visited Welcome Home Africa, the Ugandan children’s home from which my family adopted our daughter Ruth, I saw the faces and learned the names of dozens of children waiting for a mother to call their own. If you are not able to give a gift to your own mom this holiday, consider using the money you would have spent on her to bless a child still waiting to know the love of a mom.

I was blessed to have my mom for forty-two years—not as many as I would have liked. But I’m eminently thankful for the time I had and for the artistic, bold, godly example that she was for me and my family.

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching,” the wise King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 6:20-21. “Bind them upon your heart forever.”

This I will strive to do, in honor of my mom. Not just on the second Sunday of May but all year long.