When Mother’s Day Is Hard: Giving Support to Those Who Are Hurting

Two women embracing

Mother’s Day can be hard for many people, from mothers who’ve lost children and children who’ve lost mothers to those struggling with infertility or finding a partner to start a family.

Commercials, social media posts and conversations with friends have a way of adding extra grief when Mother’s Day brings up sad memories and experiences. They can be another reminder of how much they miss Mom, Grandma or a beloved child.

When the whole world seems to be celebrating Mother’s Day, here are a few ways we can offer support and kindness.

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Supporting a mom whose child (or children) has died  

For a mother who has lost her child, the grief will never end. It’s important to remember this every day, but especially on Mother’s Day when other moms are receiving cards, phone calls, and hugs from their children.

How to empathize:

  • Remember her layers of grief. Whether they were young, adults or lost before or shortly after birth, they’re deeply missed as each year passes.
  • Think of milestones that this mother won’t see: school plays, graduation, that amazing job, their first grandchild, every holiday that comes and goes.
  • Keep in mind parents never expect to see their children die first, making every loss of a child especially tragic.
  • Think about how each child is unique; her remaining children don’t replace the child who’s gone.
  • If you know a mom whose child has gone missing, be sensitive to her struggle with the uncertainty and lack of closure.

Helpful tip: Many families refer to infants who are lost during pregnancy or shortly after birth “angel babies.”

Things to do:

  • Read blog posts by moms who’ve lost children. Their moving stories can guide you in how you support your friend.
  • Say you’d love to hear more about their son or daughter when they’d like to talk.
  • Ask their favorite things about their child. Say their child’s name out loud.
  • Give them space if they desire it.
  • Schedule an outing with them that’s not on Mother’s Day, so that other family celebrations don’t cause more grief.
  • Prepare their child’s favorite food. Invite your friend over or just quietly drop it off at their home.
  • Show compassion and understand that this kind of grief doesn’t go away.

Supporting someone who’s missing Mom on Mother’s Day  

There’s no love like a mom’s, and if yours has passed, Mother’s Day can heighten the heartbreak. From the card messages you long to give but can’t to the happy family gatherings, there are so many triggers that cause people to be anxious and sad on Mother’s Day. For a friend whose mom has died, Mother’s Day is hard, and it’s important to keep that in mind.

Consider these tips:

  • Think of your own mom or another person you adore and how it would feel if they were gone. What would you want a friend to say or do?
  • Stay sensitive to your friend if they’re feeling lost, especially if both of their parents have passed.
  • If your friend’s mother died when they were young, their grief isn’t gone with time. They’ve learned ways to cope, but they’re missing many years with their mom and still crave your kindness.

How to give support:

  • Write them a note and say you’re thinking of them on Mother’s Day. Share a quality you admired in their mom or a fond memory of her.
  • Leave a flower in a vase on their desk or porch, and say you’re remembering their mom today.
  • Donate to an organization in their mom’s name. Whether she loved animals or her church, give to something that would’ve made her smile.
  • Put a picture of their mom in a pretty frame. This can be especially meaningful if you have a snapshot your friend has never seen before.
  • Offer to host a “cooking day” so the two of you can make their mom’s signature recipe. (The recipe can also be takeout, if that’s what your friend’s mom was all about.)

Supporting a friend who wants to be a mother  

Maybe a friend is struggling with infertility or always wanted children but never was able to have or adopt them.

Things to think about:

  • We can’t predict the future, so instead of assuring them they’ll be a mom one day, send up your hopes and prayers instead.
  • If your friend enjoys your kids, plan a group get-together on Mother’s Day. If seeing children that day would add to their grief, schedule time to meet without them.
  • Watching other mothers honored at church, on television and in friend circles can be difficult. Consider honoring all the caring women in your life.

Ways to care:

  • Initiate some friend time that helps take her mind off things for a little while. Ask what she’d like to do.
  • Suggest a tranquil spa trip or walk in the park for a change of scenery.
  • Invite her to take an ongoing yoga or crafting class with you. Or simply meet for coffee once a week.

Supporting a friend who’s facing a difficult parent-child relationship  

No family is perfect, but beyond the expected ups and downs, many families are living with complex circumstances like drug addiction, mental health complications and serious illness. Even if you feel pressed for time from planning your own mom celebration, stop to consider those who are overwhelmed and sad on Mother’s Day. It’s important to acknowledge mothers with troubled children or kids who are experiencing a toxic or estranged relationship with their mom.

Things to consider for moms with troubled kids:

  • Life is probably very intense right now. There may not be a lot of time for fun, but your friend may still feel left out.
  • No matter what a mom is facing with her child—rehab, court dates, a challenging disability—your friend fiercely loves her kid, even if she sometimes needs to vent.
  • Approach your friend with zero judgment and 100% love. She gets plenty of unsolicited advice from others.

Things you can do and say:

  • Pamper an exhausted mom with a massage or mani/pedi gift card.
  • Write your friend a letter to tell them what a wonderful person they are. Your words might be the bright spot in their day.


Things to consider for kids with complex mom relationships:

  • Your friend may be torn between reaching out to their mom or just skipping the holiday.
  • Even in tumultuous relationships, the love is strong.
  • Listen to your friend, but never say negative things about their mother. It’s still their mom.

Things you can do and say:

  • Offer to do the most non-Mother’s-Day outing you can think of.
  • Tell your friend how glad you are that they’re in your life. A fancy note or no-fuss text are both acceptable.

Single moms have some of the heaviest burdens to bear. Show some love to a mother who’s parenting solo, like dinner on you or an offer to babysit one Saturday.

Mother’s Day is to honor the women who nurture, support and love us. While some of us might do an upbeat celebration, there are others who need quiet, respect and compassion. If you think your friend might have a difficult Mother’s Day, reach out. Any act of kindness and acknowledgement will go a long way in comforting their heart.