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Published on May 05, 2020

Recognizing Mother's Day When You Are Grieving 

As the spring flowers come into full bloom, we are reminded that we are approaching an annual day to thank and honor a person whom many of us consider to be very important and influential – our mother. Many people think of Mother’s Day as a cheerful day to spend time with their mother or the mother figures in their lives. This day may be spent doing a fun activity or sitting down for a special dinner together.

Mother’s Day is a lovely tradition, but, for those grieving a death, it can be a very painful reminder of a loss that not everyone understands. For those grieving the death of their mother, this day can be a tough one, regardless of age, but, it can be especially difficult for children and adolescents. It’s important to be sensitive to this sad, but true, fact: not everyone finds Mother’s Day to be a happy holiday.

What can we do to help? Heide Marcelis and Michelle Balcer, program coordinators at Safe Harbor, Abington – Jefferson Health’s program for grieving children, teens and their families, provide some advice.

Be Aware and Offer Support

If you are not the one grieving, simply being aware is a big step in the right direction. The challenges of Mother’s Day for grieving families, just like grief itself, are better acknowledged, rather than ignored. “If you know someone grieving their mother, whether they are a child or an adult, consider reaching out to them on Mother’s Day to see how they are doing and let them know that you are thinking of them. A few simple words of acknowledgement can go a long way,” says Marcelis.

“When it comes to helping someone who is grieving their mother (or any special person), we advise to ‘meet them where they are,’” says Balcer. “Often, as a society, we avoid bringing up a person who has died for fear of bringing on sadness or discomfort. But, in reality, most often when we are grieving, it actually makes us feel better to know others remember someone who was important to us.”


If your family is grieving, it’s important to talk about it. Those around you can’t offer support if they don’t know what’s going on. “At Safe Harbor, we always recommend that families let their children’s schools know when a death has occurred, and this information certainly becomes important in reminding teachers to be more inclusive in their approach to crafts and activities around special holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It’s important to ensure that no one feels left out.”

Create New, Meaningful Traditions

For those grieving the loss of their mother on Mother’s Day, looking at the day as an opportunity to remember and do something in her honor can be very uplifting and comforting.

“Perhaps plant a memory garden which will attract butterflies to visit,” suggests Marcelis. “Or create a special memory box where family members can leave notes containing stories about mom. Both of these activities foster the opportunity for family members to share stories to help keep your special person’s memory alive.

Other meaningful activities may include a craft, like enlarging her handwriting and painting a frame to hang it in, or choosing a favorite photo of mom and painting it. Journaling about favorite memories, or cooking one of her favorite recipes are also good ideas. 

Since cards are always a big part of Mother’s Day, perhaps encourage children and teens to write a special note to mom, letting her know what they remember about her. They can also write about things going on their life that they would want her to know about. Doing these sort of activities in honor of one’s mother can be very therapeutic.

As we approach Mother’s Day, we encourage you to share this information with a family who may find it helpful, and to offer comfort to those around you who may not be able to celebrate this holiday in the traditional way. 

If you know a child or teen grieving the loss of a family member who may benefit from Safe Harbor, a program which offers grief support, please visit


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