Mother’s Day and Father’s Day on my Mind at Once – Plus Tips on How to Support a Grieving Loved One

(Topic: grief, holidays, support)

I know a mama who planted an azalea for every one of her babies who died. This one in my yard makes me think of her.

Hi Friends,

This post is a bit later than I’d intended, because this week is a tough one for loss families of many kinds. Being a mother who lost a child (at any age), or being a child (of any age) who lost a mother at some point – or being a non-traditional mother in any way you might be able to think of – all make Mother’s Day a particularly tricky holiday, since much of the publicity and focus of the holiday is on a traditional mother with traditional living children of her own DNA.

There is actually an International Bereaved Mother’s Day, which is on the 1st Sunday in May instead of the 2nd Sunday – primarily used to specifically support loss moms and to raise awareness. However, regular Mother’s Day was actually founded in honor of a loss mom, so opinions are mixed about whether having a separate day is necessary or helpful.

Because of my background, I’m going to focus more on my personal experience of being a mother who lost a pregnancy (and thus a baby), but who isn’t visible as a mother (because of having no living children).

A friend of mine suggested that this post should be tips on how to get through the holiday. I thought I’d seen some articles about that, and can’t find ones with specific tips. My main thought for you, though, is just to listen to your gut: if you want to do things like church or brunch or being with family, do it! If you want to stay home, do that! Just communicate with your spouse or whomever you live with, so that everyone is on the same page, otherwise someone might have different expectations of what will happen, and that is a recipe for hurt feelings really easily, especially because we are more likely to be emotional. (I am going to link to some other articles, both for loss moms and for supporting friends and family, at the end of the post.)

Here’s the thing for us, though, that complicates Mother’s Day: we end up thinking a lot about Father’s Day at the same time. I know they are a month apart, but the little boy who made me a mother was born on Father’s Day, so thinking of him and the story of his death and birth all at once (because I’m thinking of how I’m a mom) also makes me think of the day he was born.

Last year, I followed my heart and figured out that I really wanted to have a more traditional Mother’s Day, so we went to church, I got given a carnation, and I asked to be taken out to brunch even though I knew that being around so many families with kids would be hard. And it meant a lot to me, and went well.

This year, I don’t know if it’s me being more confident in my invisible motherhood or if I’m just in a different place in my life, or whether I have so much other stuff on my mind with our upcoming move etc, but this year I don’t want all the trappings of Mother’s Day. A friend asked if I would be ok with her sending me a card – and I am! I still appreciate having my mother-ness recognized. But I don’t feel the need to be public about it this year. It’s simplified by the fact that Mother’s Day happens to fall on a family birthday this year, so we’re really focusing the weekend on celebrating that birthday, which lets me largely ignore the other holiday aspect.

So here is my tip for family and friends who want to support a grieving family, whether it’s Mother’s Day, or Father’s Day, or actually really any other holiday (because it will be on our mind that our little one should have been there and isn’t): listen to the grieving parent. Listen to anything they say or hint about whether they are excited or uncomfortable, whether there are parts of the holiday they are not looking forward to or are nervous about. And respect that feeling: don’t push them into doing something they aren’t comfortable with. Also, ask if you’re not sure! I really appreciated my friend asking whether I was comfortable getting a Mother’s Day card. It left the choice in my hands, which meant I could respect my feelings in how I replied. Don’t assume that the grieving family doesn’t want to do something. They might want to, or they might have mixed feelings, or they might even change their mind just before hand, or even have to leave halfway through. Please respect that. By listening to their gut and their heart, they are taking care of their mental health.

Have a gentle Mother’s Day, however you choose to do it. 💗

To the Mothers Hurting on Mother’s Day (this article acknowledges the feelings you may have)

This Mother’s Day: Honoring the Mothers Whose Empty Arms Ache (this article also acknowledges your feelings)

7 Ways to Include the Grieving Mother on Mother’s Day (for friends and family)

7 Ways to Remember the Hurting Mothers this Mother’s Day (for friends and family)

Supporting the Mama Who is Pregnant After Loss on Mother’s Day (for friends and family supporting a mom having a subsequent pregnancy)

Supporting Your Friend On Mother’s Day: When The Day Is Not ‘Happy’ (some ideas for moms, and several helpful ones for friends and family)

Yours,

Sarah

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