Friday, May 4, 2012


~ Karla Helbert, MS, LPC, Grief, Loss & Bereavement Expert

In our society where mourning is no longer a widespread or open practice (though I am working hard, along with likeminded friends and colleagues to change that), other community members may not always feel they can openly discuss “the departed.”

If you know someone whose mother has died, or if you knew his or her mother, perhaps sending a white flower in memory of their mother may be a lovely gesture. You might also consider sending a card or letter, or making a phone call specifically to share memories of that person’s mother. Taking a moment to let her child know how much she meant to you, can be very comforting. If you know a young child whose mother has died, acknowledge that child’s pain and let that child know that you are a safe person to talk to. Again, sharing memories of the child’s mother can let that child know how much his or her mom meant to others.

For all of us, childless mothers and motherless children alike, planning a way to remember our deeply cherished loved ones is very important:
  • • Make a plan that will honor your mother’s or your child’s life
  • • Acknowledge their presence in your life, your heart and your mind.
  • • Honor your love for them, as well as the pain you feel due to their absence.
  • • Create new traditions for this day: light a candle, say a prayer, or wear a flower.
  • • You might wish to donate to a charity in your child’s or your mother’s name
  • Plan a visit to the burial site, plant a tree, create a work of art or start a scrapbook.
  • Read your child or mom’s favorite book, watch their favorite movies, listen to songs they loved.
  • Name a star after your child, make his or her favorite food, plan a balloon release with notes to him or her written on the balloons.
No matter what, you are always a mother. And no matter what, your mother is always your mother. We can remember them with love.

I vividly recall the first Mother’s Day after my son died. It was a very 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 very healing and comforting. I placed special stones around the tree, hung wind chimes and placed special ornaments in and around the tree. Caring for the tree has become a way of demonstrating our on-going 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 back yard from every window that looks out of the back of our house; kitchen, living room, bathroom, hallway, office.

While nothing takes 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 is a constant reminder of our love for him. Seeing the tree bloom each spring and watching it grow a little taller and stronger with each passing year underscore the tree’s symbolic representation of our ever-present love for him and his presence in our family.

If you anticipate that Mother’s Day will be difficult for you, whatever your personal circumstances, spend some time making a plan for honoring, remembering and memorializing. Think about doing something to care for yourself as well. Self-care gifts such as massage, manicure, pedicure, can all help to alleviate stress. Ask for what you need. Taking time to be alone, to journal, to take a walk, spend time in nature, or simply to rest can be very helpful. If you need support, ask for it. If you worry that no one will do anything for you on Mother’s Day, be pro-active and tell your loved ones what you would like to do to observe the day. Plan a lunch or dinner with supportive friends or family.

Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

And know that your sisters in grief will be thinking of you and sending you their love...

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