Celebrating Mother’s Day After Loss

Mother’s Day can bring memories of warm hugs, homemade cards, delicious dinners, and mom’s loving kisses and smiles. But Mother’s Day, as well as other holidays, can be difficult for children who have lost their mother. 

I know the challenge of responding to those days. My wife died a week before Christmas when our sons were 6 and 5, and Mother’s Day came awfully fast for us. I gave a lot of thought to what would help my sons get through their first Mother’s Day in the best, least painful way possible. Together we discovered what worked best for them and I, but it took some thinking and doing.

    1. Remember the good times. Pictures are great for triggering memories. Bring them out and talk with your kids about the day each picture was taken. Share the life you and your wife were dreaming about and how she felt about having kids. Keep the talk age appropriate. When they are older, they will be able to understand more. Reassure them that you are a team and you have no intention of breaking up the team.
    2. Establish new traditions. A new tradition can be simple or elaborate. On the first Mother’s Day after my wife died, I bought roses. The kids and I went to the local pier and threw the roses into the Gulf of Mexico. Yes, we looked out of place in our Sunday best among people in their swimsuits, but we were on a mission. The boys enjoyed participating in this unique tribute to their beloved mother. 
    3. Find a “new mom” for the children to honor. This doesn’t mean getting married right away. It means finding a mom substitute – a sister, aunt, grandmother, or special female friend to whom your young children can send cards to and write messages. This helps remove the stigma of being a motherless child in elementary or middle school. My boys chose their aunt Stephanie and my mother.
    4. Encourage your kids to write a letter to their mom. Make sure they know it is for them and their mom only and that no one else will read it. You might want to put the letters into an envelope for safekeeping. If the kids are open to it, you can read last year’s letter before writing a new one. Save their letters and return them when they are older.
    5. Eat cake. Kids don’t want to sit and grieve. They don’t want to sit, period. Get up, and get out of the house. Shoot basketballs, throw a baseball, play miniature golf, watch a movie, or go to a zoo. Enjoy a new day. Create positive new memories to crowd out the negative ones.
    6. Talk before the holidays happen. If your children are in elementary school, remember there is often a Mother’s Day card-making activity at school, and conversations about moms. It can be a hard time for them. Discuss with them ahead of time who they will make cards for, and hint at what to say. Talk to their teachers so they know your kid’s situation.

Being a parent is difficult. Being a single parent with young kids is even harder. Help your kids make it through Mother’s Day by trying new approaches like these, and remind them that even though their mother isn’t physically around, they still have a mother who loves them dearly.

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