You’ve seen my posts about Mother’s Day crafts and recipes that I love (my favorites are from my Mom), but today I am putting on my big girl pants and sharing a little more from my heart. I know that Mother’s Day can be painful for those who have lost their moms, those wanting to be mothers but who have been unable to, and even moms in general who really feel inadequate.
Here are some thoughts on how to encourage:
I asked my amazing friend Emmy who organizes Choose Joy, a mother who has walked the path of infertility and experienced many things along the way for her perspective too. Some of her thoughts are mixed in with mine below.
Encouraging Someone with Loss on Mother’s Day
- Listen, listen, and listen some more
I need to work on this one. I talk a lot and I think after all these years I realize that I talk (and sometimes interrupt way too much) because I want to connect and want to share my side so that people know I hear them. Take time to just let them talk and don’t respond. Take it all in. Let them get it out.
- Don’t try to fix it
Another hard one to do. Before you go into fix it mode, remind yourself that there are some situations that simply cannot be fixed. When people try to fix things too, it sometimes makes the one grieving feel guilty or bad for feeling sad.
- Let the person know you are there for them, all the time, with no judgment
It can be so mind numbing hard when you are in the middle of heart ache and feeling alone. Having someone to turn to, who you know will be there under any circumstance and be loving, comforting and not judge you is the best type of medicine.
Instead of saying “how can I help?” pay close attention to what the person’s needs are and act on that. To make sure they are okay with it, you can say something like “I’d like to bring you dinner- when is the best day?” or “I’d love to help with carpool- who can I get in touch with?” After losing my Dad, I heard “how can I help?” sooo many times but most of the time I felt like people were saying it just because they didn’t know what else to say or they were kind of checking it off that ‘phew I told her I’d help and she didn’t respond so I did my job.’ Maybe that’s bad on me for thinking that way but I appreciated so much more the people who jumped in and did things without me having to even think about it. I know moving forward, that is what I will do.
Instead of avoiding the subject with your friend/loved one, say something like “I’m so sorry that you don’t have your mom to celebrate with you. That stinks.” Or “I’m sorry. I’m sure this day is hard for you. Infertility stinks.” One of the hardest things is when people don’t acknowledge. I think it’s because they are worried they will say the wrong thing. Yes I’ve done that, but know better now. But trust me, saying nothing is so so much worse.
- Follow their lead
Everyone reacts to their situations differently. Some people completely shut down and do not want to talk about it. Others want to talk for hours. I would first acknowledge the heart ache and then let them steer the conversation. If they want to talk for hours and hours, let them. If they aren’t ready to really talk about it, don’t push it. Let them be in charge but be there to support.
- Know that it is a process
Have you heard of the stages of grief? Well they are real and true. Everyone experiences them in different ways and different times. Even if you think that people should be “over” something, the pain could still very well be right on the surface. I have friends who still say that even though their mom passed away 20 years ago, they have a hard time on Mother’s Day. While others spend the day celebrating. Everyone experiences things differently and it’s key to know that and be aware of it. Again, take their lead after listening to them with where they are.
- When loss is experienced, there is a new kind of normal
Along with the stages of grief, when loss happens- and this applies all different kinds of loss- things will never be the same. People learn to deal and cope without their loved one but there is a new perspective and spot missing for that person. That doesn’t mean that they can’t go on living a happy life full of joy. That’s not what I’m saying at all – of course they need to choose joy. But, learning to live life with the loss of a dream or the loss of a parent or a child alters things.
There are also things that are important NOT to say.
Just this last week a sweet friend lost her adorable Ryan in a tragic accident. I posted about on Instagram and got some amazing responses from other moms who have lost their children. I think what not to say is just as important as what to say. These were their suggestions:
- Do NOT say “I know how you feel.” Unless you actually do. Saying “I know how you feel” can make the person dealing with loss angry (most of the time kept on the inside) and want to cry out – “No you don’t!! You can’t possibly know how I feel.”
- Specifically relating to loss of children, do NOT say “Well at least you have another child” or something similar. A sentence started with “at least” in grieving rarely is helpful.
- Do NOT say “Call me” because the reality is, they won’t. It’s so hard to ask for help in every day life for most people (specifically women). To ask for help in dark days won’t happen. Instead you make the initiative and effort. Call them. Be there. Bring them things and do service for them.
I haven’t dealt with losing my mom or felt the pain of infertility. I experienced a miscarriage long ago and know the heart ache of that. And I have felt loss in other ways (having a child on the autism spectrum) and losing my Dad. I thought it was important to acknowledge and extend our love for those who dread this day every year. I know you know someone who has lost their mother, struggles with infertility or feeling inadequate. My challenge to you is to seek out those friends and loved ones. Let them know that you are there for them and love them, unconditionally. And maybe bring them a treat. Because treats make the world go round. You can use my printable bread wrapper and make it even more special. Over the past year my Mom has been through a lot with the loss of my Dad. She has stood firm in her beliefs and navigated a new life. I was a “Daddy’s girl” and often talked about my special times with my Dad but I know that many of the qualities that I have now are because of a diligent mother who worked hard and raised three awesome kids! (I can say that, right?) I get my creativity from her, strong faith, my love of vintage, the importance of having good home cooked family dinners, sentimental traditions that I have passed to my kids, and how to be a good, caring friend. I also get my “determinedness” (aka stubbornness) from her and a long line of “determined” women. Those skills have helped me throughout my life and I am so appreciative of that. Thank you for being you Mom. I love you and am proud of you! I also am grateful for my Mother-in-law who not only did a great job in raising Josh but who has also helped so much over the years with my family. She has been a great role model to me of strength and going, going, going. Trying to get her to sit still is almost impossible because she is always doing something for someone else. She never wants to be acknowledged for what she does and also has strong faith that I admire. She has a gift and love for working with elderly people and never complains about anything.
I hope today is a wonderful day for everyone – celebrating women everywhere, supporting one another, loving each other and encouraging for all of the mothers in our lives.
Please feel free to chime in and let me know what you’ve done to encourage, how you have encouraged or what your thoughts are on this.