How do you celebrate a special day when the very reason for its existence has been cruelly ripped from your arms? How can you enjoy Mother’s Day when you can no longer hold your child because they have died?
This is a question so many mothers face every year. And for those of us who love these mothers, the question is: “How can I best show support and love for my friend/mother/sister/cousin when they are hurting?”
While we can not make Mother’s Day easier for our loved ones who are grieving, there are many ways that we can show care and support for them as they travel through the journey of loss and recovery.
Here are 6 things you can do to encourage a grieving mother, and 4 gift ideas for mother’s day for a mother who no longer has her child with her.
6 Tips For Encouragement:
- Acknowledge the difficulties that this day brings. Many women struggle to figure out how to celebrate, or even how to feel on this day. It can be fraught with sadness but also filled with happy memories of their child. Also, a mother’s preferred way of celebrating may change from year to year. Simply saying to your loved one: “I know this day is difficult for you and I hope you have peace this Mother’s Day” can be a helpful way to show them that you care.
- Speak the name of their child. So many people are afraid of causing pain that they end up avoiding even the mention of the name of the child that died. This often makes a grieving parent feel like people are forgetting their precious child. It may cause some tears – but remember tears are healthy – and please tell your friend or family member that they are still a good parent to their special angel.
- Share a pleasant memory of the child. Sometimes a happy or funny story about the child will help lighten a sad moment. It’s good to remember all the aspects of a child’s personality. It keeps them in our memories and it reminds us to celebrate the time we had with them.
- Be understanding if the grieving mother wants to be alone, or doesn’t want to talk. Some years grieving for a dead child involves lots of memory sharing but some years it may be too much to handle. Or perhaps the mother wants to focus on other things to ease the intensity of her pain. Be respectful of her need for space. Let her know that you will support her in a manner that she wishes and don’t be offended if it isn’t what you expected. Just offer to be around when she is ready to talk again.
- Call, write, or text. Often people don’t want to bring more pain or are not sure what to say. So they let the day slip by without wishing their loved one a Happy Mother’s Day. It may bring sadness, but a brief message is always better than feeling forgotten. She might not be ready to pick up the phone and chat, but at least leave a message letting her know that you are thinking of her and that you hope her day goes well.
- Don’t assume the mother has “gotten over it”, “moved on”, or “is better now”. Grieving the death of a child is a life-long process. They will never be “all better”. Time does help but grief can sneak up on a person at any time and knock their socks off! Even years later mothers can have great difficulty getting through this holiday. Be understanding and meet her where she is at the moment. Listen to what she says and recognize the hardship.
4 Gift Ideas:
- A living memorial. Planting a rose-bush or tree in honor of their child is a loving gift that can keep on growing and giving beauty to the world in the name of their loved one. This can be something given directly to the family or one that is somewhere else that is just named for the child.
- Share a photo or a memory. Giving a great photo of the mother’s child or sharing a memory can be a special gift. Perhaps it is a photo that the mother has never seen before. Or maybe it could be a letter with a written description of an event that occurred in the child’s life that is funny or touching. These are good ways to share the life of the child that the mother can touch or see.
- Donate to a cause in the child’s name. The possibilities for this one are endless! You can start a scholarship fund in their name, or donate to a charity. You can contribute to a cause that the family holds dear. You can especially give money to an organization that has some bearing on the cause of death of the child. For example, if the child died of cancer – make a donation to research. If the cause of death was depression – help fund a suicide prevention hotline. Perhaps a donation to a NICU would be good for the mother whose premature baby succumbed to complications of his or her birth. Don’t worry about the dollar amount. Any amount of money shows love and their mother will be honored.
- Light a candle. Let the bereaved mother know that you will have a candle burning on Mother’s Day to honor her child and support her and the family. Sometimes just knowing that people who love you are thinking of you and supporting you makes the day a little easier. You can even take a picture of the candle while it is lit and text or email it to her.
I hope that these tips will help you support the beautiful women in your life that are going through their own grief journey. Don’t forget the most important thing: Just listen. Don’t judge, don’t rush, don’t turn away. Just be there and listen to what she needs and wants. We all have our own grief journeys at some point in our lives but we can work together to help each other travel with more peace and love admist the pain of loss.
Happy Mother’s Day my Friends.
Peace and health,