2021 grief Mother's Day

From the Vault: Mother’s Day Grief: How to Support Your Loved Ones As They Grieve

Trigger Warning: This post speaks to grief and loss around Mother’s Day.

person holding white peony bouquet closeup photography
Photo credit: Dominika Roseclay

Mother’s Day falls on May 8th this year. My inbox and social media timelines have been filled with advertisements for flowers, jewelery, and special crafts. It’s a beautiful time for mothers and mother figures. Rightfully so. Mothers provide a great deal of influence on the care and nourishement of our children. They are thermostats of the household–setting the tone for good and challenging. They are the backbone of the household–supporting spouses in households with dual parents and being primaries for single parent household. So, it’s no surprise that the day is so heavily promoted.

But for some people, Mother’s Day serves as a painful reminder for those whose mothers and mother figures are no longer with us. They are reminded that they can’t reach out and provide hugs and flowers. They can’t feel warm embraces and share cups of warm tea while reminiscing over childhood memories.

The entire day is hard for them.

The whole weekend. I just want to lock myself away. But I have to put on a smile for my own kids, so that they know I appreciate their love. But truthfully, I just want to be left alone.

-R., Mom of three

One of my favorite pictures of my great-grandmother two weeks before I delivered my oldest son.

So what can you do to support those who grieve their mothers and mother figures on Mother’s Day?

  • Don’t placate. It’s human nature to want to make things better, to solve it. That often leads to people saying things that don’t help at all, even if they are true. Yes, mom may be in a better place where she is no longer ill or suffering. Those of faith may be comforted spiritually by those thoughts, but it doesn’t change the fact that the ache and hollow is real.
  • Let the bereaved set the tone for the day. Figure out how the bereaved would like to spend the day. Would they like to be surrounded by family and loved ones? Would they rather spend the day by themselves? Allow them to set expectations and be flexible. It’s not unusal for someone to think they’ll be fine and then find themselves sobbing and wanting to be alone instead. A friend, whom I will designate as ‘R’ has said that she always appreciates the love and support of her family, but admits that sometimes she would do more for the family when she wasn’t up to it. Specifically, “the whole weekend. I just want to lock myself away. But I have to put on a smile for my own kids, so that they know I appreciate their love. But truthfully, I just want to be left alone.”
  • Acknowledge the grief and the loss. Remember mom with white roses or carnations (the unofficial flower of Mother’s Day). White carnations symbolize remembrance of a loved one. Light a candle in front of a picture of mom. Remember the fun times. If your loved one wants to cry, allow the tears and be there with tissues and a hug.
  • Give your loved one (and yourself) grace. It’s okay. Grief is hard and there is no right or wrong to it. No one can tell you how you are to grieve for your loved one because you are the person grieving. Still, this a a high strung day, so bereaved members, extend grace to those who wish to love, hold, and surround you. Loved ones, extend grace when your idea of Mother’s Day doesn’t gel well with their way. It’s hard. It hurts. But you are not alone.

Mother’s Day is a beautiful acknowledgement of the love of those who sacrifice so much. If you or a loved one are grieving this year and need resources to assist, please consider contacting Empathy.com or a local grief support group in your area.

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