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Coping With Grief On Mother's Day

Not everyone will be able to celebrate Mother's Day this Sunday. For those who have lost a mother, it can be a painful day of mourning, especially if this is the first Mother's Day without Mom or if young children are grieving, too. This may also be a hard day for women who have experienced infertility, pregnancy loss or the loss of a child.

Recognizing this, the Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support, a nonprofit which provides free services to individuals and families throughout Western Pennsylvania, offers these suggestions for coping.

Tips for Adults who are Grieving Their Mothers

• Grief is work, requiring time and energy. Write Mom a letter. Say what you would tell her if she was still physically here.

• Men, women, adults, children, and adolescents all grieve in different ways. Share and respect your differences. Neither way is right or wrong, each gender and age group can learn from the other.

• Ask a trusted friend or coworker what helped them when their mother died.

• Do something positive in memory of your mother. Choose an activity that will connect you to her. Repeat this activity as often and as long as you feel the need.

• Seek out others who are helpful and supportive. Do not feel that you need to do this alone. Someone who has been through grief can often empathize with you. This may be a friend, family member, counselor or bereavement support group.

• Take care of yourself. Give yourself time and space to begin healing. Get enough rest. Eat nourishing food. Give yourself a break.

Tips to Help Children who are Grieving Their Mothers

• If the children are young, spend quality time by reading them stories that Mom used to read. Encourage and help them make a Mother's Day card.

• Remind them it's okay to miss their mom and cry if they need to. Engage them in creative games. Children process grief and other emotions through play.

• Explain that this is a good day for good memories of Mom. Break out the photo album and reminisce with them. Laugh with them. Let them know it's okay to feel good, too, when thinking about her.

• Encourage them to honor their mother by spending the day with family. Suggest activities that Mom used to enjoy, or ones that will evoke warm memories.

• Take them to one of Mom's favorite places as a means of enabling them to feel close to her. Have them take flowers or special mementos to leave at the site.

Tips for Mothers who are Grieving Their Children

• Be gentle with yourself. This could be the most dreaded day of the year for you. You may feel anger, sadness, guilt or a range of other emotions because your child died before you. These emotions are very common with grief—don't try to suppress them.

• Seek out emotional support; it is a sign of courage, not weakness. It is unrealistic to believe that you will process your grief quickly. Everyone grieves in their own time and their own way.

• Be patient with yourself. Talk openly with trusted family and friends about your child and encourage them to talk openly with you too—hearing your child's name mentioned can be helpful.

• Create your own memorial. Whether it involves planting, writing, building or painting, be creative and put your energy into doing something in memory of your child.

• If you're a woman who never held your baby due to a pregnancy loss, celebrate your baby by lighting a candle or planting a flower that blooms every year. If your friend experienced a pregnancy loss, offer a hug and let her know you are thinking of her on Mother's Day.

• If you have not been able to conceive, follow the suggestions above that are right for you. Give yourself permission to grieve and to talk with trusted others about how you have changed as a person.

• Talk about your feelings with your spouse and encourage him or her to express to you how they are feeling.

The Good Grief Center for Bereavement Support (GGC) creates a safe place where people who have experienced the pain of death can work through their loss and learn to manage their grief. For no-cost emotional support by phone or in person, grief education and referrals to community resources, contact GGC at 2717 Murray Avenue, Pittsburgh (Squirrel Hill);; 412-224-4700 or 1-888-GRIEF-88. Or visit
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