When Mother’s Day is Tinged with Grief

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and for many it brings to mind happy family scenes of flower filled brunch buffets, thoughtful gifts and time spent with loved ones planting the garden or getting pampered at the spa.  But many more families who have recently experienced the death of a mother or grandmother will feel the sharp pang of loss the holiday can also bring.

Mother’s Day in the United States was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908, who used the second anniversary of her mother’s death to commemorate mothers and give families a special day to celebrate.  After the holiday became commercialized, she denounced Mother’s Day and tried to have it removed from the calendar.  Jarvis herself was childless but created the day to honor hard-working, selfless mothers like her own.  She also campaigned to have people wear carnations, her mother’s favorite flower; red for a living mother and white to honor deceased mothers.

Rationally we will all know that one day we will lose our parents and the older we get, the more common it is to have death hold a subtle role in every holiday.  But it’s that first birthday, Mother’s Day or Christmas without a parent that is most difficult.  It may seem impossible to conceive they are no longer around to send flowers to, visit or call on these special days.

How can family and friends offer support for those who have lost their mother this May 8?   Like any holiday, we can get swept up in the material trappings of the day.  Most mothers will agree that while flowers, chocolate or jewelry is lovely, what moms really crave is their family’s unhurried company.  And for mothers who have lost their own mom, time really is the greatest gift.  Grand gestures are not necessary, they can often go awry and sometime a low-key day with few expectations is exactly what’s needed.

A sense of appreciation, and perhaps a day free from cooking or household chores, is all mom really wants.  Time has a way of slipping away from us too quickly and while many hold disdain for “Hallmark Holidays”,  marking a day on the calendar to slow down and spend enjoyable time together chatting over a cup of tea, taking a walk, sharing a meal or watching a movie is the real value of the date.