How to Help a Child Who Is Grieving on Mother’s Day

Illustration for article titled How to Help a Child Who Is Grieving on Mother's Day

Photo: altanaka (Shutterstock)

Mother’s Day is a pretty straightforward holiday in many homes. Mom sleeps in, the kids bring her breakfast in bed, and she receives some handmade cards, small gifts, or flowers. But in many other homes, the day is a stark reminder of loss—a painful day for adults who’ve lost their moms and for moms who’ve lost their children. And it can be especially challenging to help a child navigate the grief over the loss of their mom every day, but especially on this day.

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Here are some ways to help grieving kids get through a difficult Mother’s Day.

Meet them where they are

As Mother’s Day approaches, your most important consideration should be recognizing where they are in their grief process and meeting them there. They may feel anger, denial, sadness, guilt, or all of the above on any given day, and rightfully so. Grief isn’t linear and there is no right or wrong way for them to feel, and assessing where they are in their grief process will help you determine how it might be best to spend the day.

It might be healing for them if everyone shares funny stories about her, or they may need to curl up on the couch under a big blanket and watch movies all day long. The following suggestions are ideas to consider as you try to assess what would be best for them.

Spend the day as (semi)-normally as they used to

If the family always celebrated Mother’s Day in a certain way, it may be a comfort to them to keep those traditions going in whatever way you can. If you normally made breakfast together to deliver to her bedroom, maybe the family eats breakfast together in bed or picnic-style on the bedroom floor in honor of her. If they always made handmade cards, they can still do that, and place it on her dresser or in another spot where she might have displayed it. If they normally picked her a handful of flowers, have them select some to put in a favorite vase or to take to the cemetery.

Keeping special celebrations going could help them feel like they’re doing something during a time when the loss may have them feeling helpless.

Choose a special plant or candle

After a devastating loss, it can sometimes be helpful to have something to nurture and grow. You can plant a tree, a bush, or a special flowering plant their mom loved so they can water it, care for it, and watch it bloom. It can be comforting to see something come alive in her honor in the same spot every year.

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As an alternative, you could also purchase a special “mom candle” that you light each Mother’s Day, as well as on other holidays, special days throughout the year, or on important days they wish she could be there for, such as graduation.

If there is more than one child, it may be helpful for them to each pick out their own plant or candle so it’s special to them.

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Share her favorite meal

If mom’s favorite meal was spaghetti and meatballs followed by a rich and creamy cheesecake, today might be the day for the whole family to indulge. Or if take-out always made her happy, place an order at a few of her favorite places and set up a buffet-style dinner. You can over-do it here in whatever way you know would have delighted her. Share memories over the meal and talk about how much she would’ve enjoyed it, knowing that she’d be happy you are doing so in her place.

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Similarly, you can visit a place she loved, such as a nearby beach, her favorite hiking trail, or the park she used to take them to.

Create a memory box or album

A little project may help give them something to focus on doing, and it can be a nice way for them to collect some items that remind them of her. They can create and decorate a memory box, filling it with gifts they’d received from her, as well as photos, a favorite scarf, jewelry, a bookmark she always used—whatever helps them feel connected to her memory.

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Similarly, you could help them create a photo album or scrapbook with pictures, postcards of places they visited with her, favorite quotes, pictures of TV shows they used to watch together, or special sayings she often used.

But most of all—don’t push it

The most important thing is not that you do any of these specific things but that you do what will be most helpful to them on such a difficult day. You can give them some options or simply keep it open-ended. Ask them, “What should we do for Mother’s Day this year?” and let them choose how they’d like to spend it. Doing so gives them a voice and validates the importance of their feelings. It’s helpful for everyone—including you, as this is a loss you’re likely grieving as well—to plan ahead so you’re not suddenly grappling with what to do when the day arrives.

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Make sure to practice self-care for you, too, and find a way to feel some comfort on this day.

 

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