Any day can be difficult for a grieving child, but for a child who has lost their mum, occasions such as Mother’s Day can be particularly challenging. There are Mother’s Day Cards and gifts in shops, friends may be planning how to celebrate, or perhaps the class are making something special for their Mums…it’s no wonder that the run up to Mother’s Day can leave a child whose mother has died feeling sad, alone, and unsure.
Because grief is individual to each child, what helps one child may not be useful for another. However, you canhelp. Grieving children may feel particularly sad on Mother’s Day. We should not try to take these feelings away, or to distract a child. Instead, acknowledge their (often very strong) emotions, and listen to how things are for the child. Although their mother is no longer with them, children often want to think and talk about her. This can help children to feel theirspecial person has not been forgotten.
Children should always have a choice in what they do. Along with any ideas the child might have, some ways you can help a child remember his or her mum are:
- Visit her grave.
- Go for a walk in a place she liked.
- Have her favourite meal.
- Bake a cake.
- Talk about her.
- Release a balloon with a message tied to it.
- Write down favourite memories.
- Plant bulbs to flower in summer.
- Buy or make a Mother’s Day card.
- Light a candle.
- Say a prayer.
- Make time to think about her.
Enlist the support of other adults in the child’s life, such as a crèche manager or school teacher, so that they will approach occasions such as Mother’s Day with sensitivity.
Teachers can help too!
Grief is an ongoing journey for bereaved children, so the issues raised by occasions such as Mother’s Day may be relevant for many years after a death. The most important thing is to always give children a choice. Making a Mother’s Day card in class can be an enjoyable activity for many children – and it may be for some children grieving a mother’s death – but it does require a very sensitive approach. If you are thinking about doing an activity to celebrate Mother’s Day, have a quiet word with a bereaved child and their parent or guardian to let them know what will be happening. Doing this about a week beforehand will give them some time to think. Invite them to decide if they would like to be part of the class activity or not. If they do not wish to participate, respect their decision and perhaps offer them an alternate enjoyable activity. Siblings in the same class may make different choices.
If a child decides to participate, it is generally helpful not to focus too much on them, they will already be feeling different from their peers and will not welcome too much extra attention. Be mindful for a child who may become upset while doing this activity, a kind and gentle response will normally help the child with the emotion that has come to the surface.