When Mother's Day Is About Loss


The bite in the air is gone and the bright sunshine warms your cheeks. There is a delightful smell of fresh cut grass and lovely pastels blooming everywhere. If the weather is changing and spring is in the air, it means that Mother’s Day is almost here.  While this day is generally thought to be a happy, family-filled occasion, it can be a truly difficult time for those who have experienced the loss of a mother or child, women experiencing infertility or who have had miscarriages, or to those who have a damaged relationship with their moms.  

As family therapists, we know this day can often be painful and difficult.  We believe a hugely powerful gift for a bereaved mother on Mother’s Day can be the simple recognition of her motherhood. This small act of recognition can provide her with some of the validation she seeks and sadly finds missing.  

I recently re-read a post from GoodTherapy.Org written by a therapist who had lost her son and wanted to share her story of how she handled her first Mother’s Day after his passing.  

“I vividly recall the first Mother’s Day after my son died. It was a sad, painful day. The beauty of spring itself seemed to exist solely to mock my childless arms. On that day, my husband and I planted a tree in our backyard. I had originally planned to plant a tree for our son so that he could watch the tree grow as he grew. Instead, we planted the tree in his memory.

The choosing of the tree, bringing it home, digging the hole, and the placement of the tree itself were all acts that meant more than the simple planting of a tree. The act was elevated to ritual status and was healing and comforting. I placed special stones around the tree, hung wind chimes, and put special ornaments in and around the tree. Caring for the tree has become a way of demonstrating our ongoing love for him. Weeding, decorating the area, watering, and fertilizing the tree have allowed for that loving memorial to continue. The tree is visible in our backyard from every window that looks out of the back of our house; kitchen, living room, bathroom, hallway, and office.

While nothing can take away the pain of missing my child, the ritual we created together to honor his memory made that first Mother’s Day more bearable, and it is a constant reminder of our love for him. Seeing the tree bloom each spring and grow a little taller and stronger with each passing year underscores the tree’s symbolic representation of our ever-present love for him and his presence in our family.”

There are so many ways that we can honor and remember our loved ones and help make Mother’s Day a bit brighter for those that are struggling.  Here are some great suggestions on how to be supportive:

If you feel like talking to a Chicago family therapist that can provide you with some needed support this week, please know that we offer free 20-minute phone consultations.  Much love and support to you and your family this Mother’s Day from us at Introspective Family Therapy.