Around Mother’s Day, many women suffer from silent grief. I used to carry this grief silently too–first when we couldn’t get pregnant and later when we lost a son.Then I started talking about how hard Mother’s Day used to be for me, and other women slowly opened up, explaining they felt the same too.
Many people struggle on Mother’s Day with the pain of losing a mom or wife, losing a child, or struggling with infertility.
I’ve written several blog posts about the silent grief of Mother’s Day, but this year I was asked to talk about it on a podcast called Parenting Tomorrow’s Leaders.
On Mother’s and Father’s Day, people suffering from silent grief aren’t limited to one age, life stage, or single kind of grief. This list includes:
- the single parent or those going through a divorce/separation
- couples who’ve experience child loss, infant loss, and still birth
- women who’ve experienced miscarriage
- couples struggling with infertility
- women and men who’ve lost a mother or father
- widows/widowers who’ve lost a spouse
- those who have a broken relationship with a mother, father, son or daughter.
If you are in a place of grief, expect that Mother’s or Father’s Day might trigger some sadness. Prepare for it now by journaling or discussing your thoughts with a trusted friend, therapist, or small group.
Brainstorm ways you can acknowledge your loved one on that day. Celebrate their life. Visit the cemetery. Browse through old pictures. Tell stories about their life.
If you have kids, let them celebrate your loved one by writing cards and making gifts. You may not have Option A–how things used used to be–so embrace Option B. It’s not what any of us would choose, but it’s how things are now.
Also, be tender to yourself. Grief is a tough companion. Find those you love. Embrace their care on the tough days.
How Can I Help The Hurting?
First of all: There isn’t one right way to help.
I offer these suggestions as starting points because I find too many people will simply do nothing if they’re unsure what to do. Use your relationship with the person as your guide.
Whereas a man who loses a wife might be thankful for some homemade meals, a woman who loses a spouse might need help with the lawn, home repairs, or the car. (I know there are men who are fantastic cooks and women who not only own, but use, their drill.)
Every situation is unique and your relational closeness to the person will guide you. In other words, don’t ask to wash someone’s underwear unless you know them really well.
With those things in mind, here are a few practical ways to reach out to someone who is hurting.
1. Remember them.
Part of the pain of this day is feeling forgotten. For women who have lost a child, it’s feeling like your child is forgotten. For those who’ve lost a mother, it’s feeling like no one remembers mom. Find a way to remember the person who is hurting, and their loved one who has died, through a card, note, or a meal together.
2. Don’t be afraid to bring up the elephant in the room.
You might think, “I don’t want to bring up the hurt that person is going through. It will only make them feel worse.”
The truth is that person is already thinking about her hurt. You aren’t addressing anything new. If you are a close friend or family, acknowledging the pain helps them know you care.
Simply say, “I’m thinking of your mom (or daughter, or wife) today and remembering how special she was.” I’ve had numerous people tell me how wonderful it is when their loved one’s name is spoken out loud.
So speak their name. Go ahead. Don’t be afraid to say it.
3. Consider a small gift that celebrates their loved one.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate. A favorite homemade dessert, some beautiful fresh cut flowers, or a handwritten note are all ways to remember a loved one. Laurel Box, which focuses on women going through grief, child loss, and miscarriage, also has unique gifts.
4. Rethink the day.
On the podcast, I encourage churches to rethink their Mother’s Day celebrations. Mothers should be celebrated; however, there may be a better way than what we’ve always done. I stated last year on my blog:
Over the years, I started hearing from women who struggled to attend church on Mother’s Day. The group was bigger and more diverse than I realized.
It’s not that these women didn’t want to celebrate motherhood. Most of us agree, moms do thankless work every day and rarely get the appreciation they deserve.
It’s just that tradition had made a spectacle of one group and not another, and these other women felt invisible. Left out. Forgotten.
The message was sent, whether we intended it or not, that mothers were more important than the women who were not mothers. Fathers more important than childless men. Married couples more important than the single person.”
Rethinking the way we celebrate can work wonders towards healing, reconciliation and unity in the church. We can still celebrate motherhood while we help the hurting.
How about blessing a single mom or widow in the church? How about a special prayer time addressing the needs of women on Mother’s Day? There is not one right solution for every church, but a change in how we approach the day could help those struggling with silent grief to feel more included.
5. Sit with them.
There is nothing worse than going to church alone and sitting through a service where you feel even more alone because you don’t have children, a mother, or a spouse to celebrate.
If you know someone who is alone on Mother’s or Father’s Day, consider asking to join them at church, or at some point the rest of the day.
Ask specific questions: “Can I sit with you or would you rather be alone right now?” “Do you want some company now or later this week?”
If they don’t want company, they’ll tell you. Even if they say no, they will recognize that you care.
As someone who has walked the hard road of grief, it means the world to know that you are not forgotten.
So on Mother’s Day–
Let’s hold the hand of the not forgotten.
Let’s stand by the not forgotten.
Let’s be the friend to the not forgotten.
(How will you help the #notforgotten?)