While many mothers will be happily celebrating Mother’s Day this weekend, many others will be quietly grieving the loss of a child. A day meant to honor mothers often brings fresh waves of sadness, even for the death of a child that occurred many years ago. Mother’s Day can be bittersweet for grieving mothers who also have living children.
While it may be impossible to avoid feeling any negative emotions on Mother’s Day, there are ways to get through the day and decrease strong feelings of sadness and anxiety. Consider the following:
1. Give yourself permission to feel sad. Set aside time during the day to grieve. This may involve crying, visiting the gravesite of your child, writing a letter or poem to your child, or participating in some symbolic activity that honors your child’s memory.
2. Don’t criticize yourself for feeling sad. Trying to push away the emotions or feeling guilty or angry about being sad only makes things more difficult. Recognize that it is normal to have various feelings, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and guilt. Everybody grieves in different ways.
3. Set aside time during the day to experience joy and connection with others. Social isolation and withdrawal from activities can increase feelings of sadness. Don’t be afraid to let your friends or family members know what you need from them on this difficult day. Many people do not know how to help others who are grieving and will welcome direct and honest feedback.
4. Prepare surviving siblings in age appropriate ways. Making it okay to talk about the death of a child will ease the tension in the home. Let the children know that Mom may feel both sad and happy on Mother’s Day, and that the day will involve periods of grieving and time for celebrating.
5. If you know a mother who has lost a child, consider reaching out to her this Mother’s Day. Rather than simply stating “Let me know if you need anything,” offer specific types of help. Offers to bring a meal, watch the children, or spend time together can be a great way to support a grieving mother.
For more information about coping with Mother’s Day, please click the link to listen to my interview.