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These small gestures can help the grieving person in your life feel loved during a difficult day IMAGE: UNSPLASH/BRUNO VAN DER KRAAN

How To Offer Support When Mother’s Day Is A Tough Topic

Mother’s Day is such a special day for many women - new mums, expectant mums and mums in general. But for some, it can be one of the most difficult days of the year, as they might not be able to celebrate this globally significant day.

We all have someone like that in our lives. It may be a girlfriend who hasn’t been able to conceive despite trying everything; someone who has a strained relationship with her own mother; someone who has lost her mum recently; someone who has suffered a miscarriage, or even worse, a mother who has lost her child. 

Instead of it being a celebratory time, it can be a time of incredible grief, especially when the whole world is showing off their special day so publicly.

Try these small gestures to help someone get through this year’s Mother’s Day:

If someone's mother has recently passed away

A friend of mine lost her own mum last year, and her first Mother’s Day without her mum was naturally very painful and difficult, compounded by the fact that she was a young mum herself, and was torn between managing her own emotions and trying to be happy for her own kids as they tried to pamper her on Mother’s Day. 

At the end of the day, we found that the one thing that helped her the most was Honouring Mum. Be it writing a private letter to her (and perhaps burying it with her favourite flower), or reminiscing with loved ones about what she meant and honouring her life, paying tribute to Mum’s importance on Mother’s Day helped remind my grieving friend that while her mum might be gone in body, she was still with her in spirit. Even something as small as paying respects by lighting a candle at home helps. 

Practising gratitude for the opportunity to be a mum can be quite therapeutic as well. Pay it forward and visit an old people’s home or a hospital to brighten the day of someone else's mum who might be unable to celebrate with her children. 


Supporting a friend who can’t be a mother

If you have a friend who is struggling with infertility or has always wanted children but hasn’t been able to conceive, don’t ignore her on Mother’s Day. That will only emphasise the fact that she is the childless one, making her feel more isolated and miserable.

My neighbour hasn’t been able to have children, but she treats mine like she would her own, so we always make it a point to include her for everything Mother’s Day, especially cake and flowers. It’s not perfect, but at least it’s not painful and awkward.

But if seeing family celebrations would only add to her grief, then arrange to meet her without the kids in tow. Try to do something that she would like to do - perhaps just a coffee to talk or a walk - anything that might help her feel less lonely, especially on Mother’s Day.


Complicated relationship with your mum

If you’re not in a good place with your own mum, it might be easier to spend the day with someone who is a maternal figure to you, or with another female friend or relative who also has strained relations with her own mother, and who can relate to what you’re going through.

In my experience with my girlfriends, if you can Forgive Mum and free yourself of the baggage you carry because of the difficult relationship, it takes away the negativity from the day. Instead of being upset on Mother’s Day, forgiving your mum and letting go of all the past or present anguish grants you the freedom to celebrate the day fully, making way for a happier Mother’s Day for the future.

However, Mother’s Day can also be an apt opportunity to try and reach out to make amends with the mum. Encourage your friend to remember her mum is not getting any younger and might not be around for many more years still, so don’t take any of it for granted. Reaching out with a simple message or even sending flowers to break the ice may go a long way (without the explicit need to have an awkward conversation if the feeling isn’t mutual).


Supporting a friend struggling with the loss of a child

Parents hope never to have to outlive their children, and the tragic loss of a child has probably got to be one of the most painful things possible for a mother. Try to imagine her layers of grief and think of the milestones and celebrations that this mother won’t ever see or share with her child. 

Support a mother mourning her lost child by helping her honour their memory and asking her to talk about her child - if she would like to do that. Ask her to tell you about her child’s favourite things, favourite foods, likes and dislikes, etc. But also show compassion and understand that this kind of grief can be extra heavy, so give her space if she would like to be alone instead.


When you don’t know what to do - just be kind

If you still aren’t sure of how to help support the women in your life for Mother’s Day in a kind and compassionate way, try these respectful gestures:

  • Be someone trustworthy they can talk to in confidence. Being there for someone and helping with emotional support is perhaps the best way that you could support someone through a difficult Mother’s Day, to help them release their grief and pain.
  • Remind her that she doesn’t need to justify how she’s feeling to anyone. There are many women who might be in the same situation as her, but everyone deals with it differently.

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