April 21, 2024

When Mother's Day Looks Different for a Loved One

by Lanna Britt

The history behind Mother’s Day in the US is surprising. If you want to learn more, check this article out but the short version is the day was created and championed by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. Jarvis was actually unmarried and childless but wanted a day to honor the sacrifices mothers make for their children. Verizon reports Mother’s Day is one of the busiest Sundays of the year on their phone network. While many women look forward to the second Sunday in May, others walking through a loss or carrying grief may be dreading the date. We hope this blog will offer some insight and wisdom if you, or a loved one, are experiencing a bereaved Mother’s Day or if the day looks a bit different for your situation. 

Setting the Scene: 4 Different Scenarios

Below we’ll walk through four different situations that might mean you are experiencing a grieving Mother’s Day or one that looks a bit different. They include coping with the loss of a mother, celebrating Mother's Day with a non-traditional mother figure, navigating the complexities of estrangement on Mother's Day or experiencing the day through a season of infant loss, miscarriage or infertility.

1. Coping with Loss of a mother

Mother’s Day without mom could be really hard and complicated. Losing a loved one is always difficult but so many children have such a close bond with their mother that her death could be really devastating, especially if it falls around this holiday. If you have a friend who is walking into his or her first Mother’s Day after the loss of mom, consider sending a thoughtful note or gift acknowledging their loss and honoring their mother. We particularly like the “In Memory of Mom” box that includes a necklace with two interconnected hearts. It can be valuable to reflect on memories of the departed mother. Putting pen to paper can be cathartic. Consider gifting a beautiful journal and pen set for your friend to write down their thoughts and feelings. It can also be helpful in keeping past traditions or creating new rituals. If you always took your mom to a special tea, consider bringing someone else in her honor or creating a High Tea spread at home and enjoying it in the backyard in a memorial garden. Make sure not to minimize your grief and seek support from friends and family as you approach the day. 

2. Celebrating Non-Traditional Mother Figures

Just because someone didn’t give birth to you, doesn’t mean they can’t fill the role of “mother” in your life. Consider honoring the women in your family and sphere who have poured into you over the years. That could include adoptive mothers, stepmothers, mentors, aunts and other maternal figures in your life. This is a great opportunity to love and appreciate them. If you have an older friend who doesn’t have biological children, take time to  acknowledge her on this day.  About 10 years ago, I created personalized Mother’s Day cards via Shutterfly and sent them to lots of women in my life. They were all so grateful and it really didn’t cost much at all. 

3. Navigating Estrangement

For some people, they might not have physically lost their mother, but maybe she’s no longer a part of their life. That counts as a grief, too! Grieving the loss of a mother or child can be from an actual death as well as an emotional one. Be sensitive if that’s the case for your friend and give yourself lots of grace if that’s the case for yourself. If you don’t have a healthy relationship with your mother or child, know this current season might not last forever. If you’re walking with hurt and trauma, consider seeking a licensed counselor. Mental health is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves! If reconciliation isn’t an option now, finding peace through acceptance might be. 

4. Infant Loss, Miscarriage or Infertility & Mother’s Day

This one is all too familiar to me and my heart breaks if you are walking this path. Mother's Day for moms after a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss sucks. There I said it. Less than two months after we lost our second son Cooper at full term, Mother’s Day rolled around. It was so complicated because we had a living child who I was SO grateful for, but I also was grieving this child I would never know. I remember feeling a mix of emotions. Having walked through infertility for three years, I also know the pain of those would-be mothers who have experienced month after month of disappointment. For a woman experiencing infertility, each Mother’s Day is a reminder of something she *isn’t* but desperately wishes she could be. If you or someone you know is carrying these types of grief into Mother’s Day, reach out with a coffee (or maybe a bottle of wine) and some sweets. Let them know they are seen and loved. It could mean the world to their grieving heart. 

Mother’s Day can be especially hard for those walking through infant loss, stillbirth, miscarriage or infertility. My first Mother’s Day after losing our son Cooper was bittersweet with hugs from my toddler, pictured here, but no baby cries in the background. 

baby footprints necklace

Mother's Day can be so painful after losing a child. Remind your friend that you remember they are still a mom.
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Child loss support candle

Light this special candle in honor of your loved little one.
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Unique Ways to Celebrate Mothers Who Have Passed Away

Here are some ideas for creative ways to celebrate Mother's Day for those who have lost their mom. 

Creating a Memory Garden or Memorial Space

Designating a corner of the garden or a specific area in the house to plant flowers or plants in memory of the mother. You can add personalized garden stones, plaques, or ornaments with her name or favorite quotes.

Writing Letters or Messages to the Deceased Mother

Composing heartfelt letters expressing love, gratitude, and fond memories can be therapeutic. Burning the letters ceremonially or releasing them into the wind as a symbolic gesture is an option too. You could also keep them in a special memory box. 

Hosting a Memory-Sharing Gathering

Inviting friends and family to come together to share stories, anecdotes, and memories of the deceased mother. You could incorporate her favorite foods, music, or activities to honor her personality and interests.

Remembrance Gifts

Hear the wind and think of me

A special gift this Mother's Day
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In memory of mom

A special gift in honor of mom
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If you don’t know what to say to someone who lost their mother, don’t make that be the reason you don’t reach out at all. Something as simple as, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how hard this season is for you. You aren’t alone and I’m right here whenever you want to talk or sit together in silence.” Always err on the side of empathy, understanding and appreciation in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day. Look for ways to honor those mother-figures who are still alive, as well as honoring the legacy of mothers past. 


Lanna Britt was a national news producer in Washington DC for nearly a decade covering politics, breaking news and current events.  She now lives with her husband and three children in Richmond VA. She has two sweet babies she’ll meet again in heaven.

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Personalized memorial


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