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When Mother’s Day Is Not a Happy Celebration

Learn how to support the countless mothers, children, and would-be mothers who grieve on Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day may be a happy celebration for many women and children. However, it can be a miserable day for countless people who mourn for a mother-child relationship. For many people, Mother’s Day is a day that taps into pain and sorrow. Mothers who have lost pregnancies, newborns, and children; children who have lost mothers or have never known their mother; women who long for motherhood and face infertility issues – the list goes on. We often struggle in response to sadness, but Mother’s Day can be an opportunity to celebrate while remembering to comfort. The day does not need to be happy in order to be important.

“The role of a mother is one of the most profound and influential roles in our society and in our lives,” says Heather Lea, Clinical Program Manager of Child and Family Services at Diversus Health. “Many people think that you must have or have had children in order to be a mother. While that might technically be the way people look at mothers, I disagree. Mothers are all around us and they do not always have children of their own.”

Tune in to our list of ideas to help you acknowledge and engage with grieving women and children when Mother’s Day is not a happy celebration.

For the Women Longing for Motherhood

Infertility is a common problem in the United States. According to the CDC and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, approximately ten percent of women (6.1 million) in the U.S. between the ages of 15-44 experience difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. If you know a woman who has not been able to conceive or has experienced a miscarriage, let her know that you are thinking of her by sending flowers and a note sharing your support. Showing your friend or loved one that you care about her on Mother’s Day can make all the difference.

For a Mother Grieving the Loss of a Child

The loss of a child is devastating. Whether months or years have gone by, a mother will always grieve over the loss of her child, even if she has other living children. Support your friend or loved one by asking about her child and encourage her to share stories and memories, if she would like to. She will be thankful to know that someone remembered her.

For Adult Children Grieving the Loss of a Mother

Adult children may mourn the loss of their mother on Mother’s Day. As a friend or supportive family member, you can ask them to share something special they remember about their mother. They may feel relieved to recall fond memories of their childhood or lessons that they learned from their mother that have stuck with them.

For Children Grieving the Loss of a Mother

Children, especially small children, often have a difficult time understanding death. Ask a child how they feel about Mother’s Day and give them an opportunity to cry, ask questions, feel sad and confused, or express their emotions without fear of judgment. Let them know it is okay to not be okay. You can encourage children to laugh and love others, letting them know that doing so does not take away from their love for their mother who passed away.

For Mothers with Children Deployed in the War

It can be difficult for mothers with deployed children to feel at peace on a regular day, let alone on Mother’s Day. Reach out to your friend or loved one and let her talk about her fears. Validate her feelings and just listen.

For Mothers Who Gave Up Their Babies

Whether a woman chose, or was forced, to give up her baby through adoption or abortion, allow her space to mourn. She may feel vulnerable to judgment and criticism. Acknowledge her loss and offer her comfort on Mother’s Day.

For Adult Children Whose Mothers Abused Them

You may know an adult whose mother abused them while growing up. Talk to your friend or loved one and listen to their pain. Ask them if there are other women in their lives that have been special and supportive of them. Perhaps they might want to honor those women on Mother’s Day. Demonstrate a balance between acknowledging their pain and helping them recognize that there are others who love them in ways that their mother could not.

For Women Who Have Stepped Up to Care for Children

Motherly love is not restricted to a biological relationship. You may know women who have stepped up to care for other people’s children in addition to having to care for their own kids or not. Recognize these women and thank them.

For Mothers & Children with Strained Relationships

Mother’s Day may be difficult for mothers and children with strained relationships. Mothers and children can develop strained relationships due to drug problems, prison sentences, mental illness, arguments and disagreements, family conflicts, or other issues. If you know a mother and child with a strained relationship, reach out to offer them encouragement. Acknowledge their pain and offer them hope. Ask them if there are other ways you can help or provide support.

If you have a strained relationship with your mother or child, offer forgiveness or an apology. Decide to try again on this Mother’s Day by reaching out to connect.

“A mother is a nurturer and a protector; a person who freely gives unconditional love and compassion to others; a mentor in our lives that we look to for help, support, wisdom, experience, and hope; someone we share our dreams with because we know they will cheer us on, whole-heartedly, all the way,” says Lea. “So let’s celebrate all of the mothers we cherish and love this Mother’s Day, for all of their contributions to us, as we are so grateful to have them in our lives.”

If you are grieving for your child or mother, give yourself the permission to feel your emotions, to reminisce and remember, to laugh and cry. Honor the life and love that you were granted. May you find peace and comfort as you remember your loved ones on this Mother’s Day.

*If you or a loved one is grieving, consider requesting an appointment to speak with one of our professional providers at Diversus Health, where we offer mental health and well-being for all. If you need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.

*This article was reviewed by Heather Lea, Clinical Program Manager of Child & Family Services at Diversus Health. 

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