When Mother’s Day is Sad: Dealing With the Pain and Grief

It happens, we are not living in a perfect world and our relationships are no different. The problem with traditional holidays like Mother’s Day is the gap it leaves in our heart. For whatever the reason, we have lost the relationship between parent and child, or something else is amiss.

While happy mothers enjoy the special day, other mothers could be mourning a child, a child could be grieving for a deceased mother, or the mother they never had. A pregnant teenager or teen mother could be scared and uncertain of her future. A stepmother could be unsure of her place in the family.

“Giving” can mean help in healing. Every situation is unique. Sometimes we just need to rewrite the script in our head of what a meaningful Mother’s Day looks like.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a psychologist and cannot give professional advice. If you are experiencing sadness and depression because of a broken relationship or a death of a loved one, please seek medical help to deal with your Mother’s Day grief.

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I’m sorry Mother’s Day gifts

If you’re looking to go out of your comfort zone, go for a “I’m sorry, Mom!” message. You might not have been ready to say those words when you were 15, but your 24-year-old self may be ready to accept that you made a mistake.

They say time heals all wounds. An “I’m sorry” note is one option, but might not feel right. Although this can be delivered with a humorous slant, it’s not for every occasion (and no one is making you do this). It’s one idea that might be what you’re looking for on this Mother’s Day.

When my mother received her first paycheck, she went right out and bought a beautiful punch bowl for her mother. She had broken her mother’s bowl and always felt terrible about it (back when people actually used punch bowls).

I recall breaking a cookie jar my mom liked when I was a teenager. If you’ve every broken or damaged something in the past, a replacement gift might be a Mother’s Day present that will be unexpected (even if it was a decade ago!).

A young Asian girl is upset with her mom.
Families love each other, and get mad at each other – but it’s how you say you’re sorry that matters!

If you didn’t break something, maybe you said words in the heat of anger that you wish you could take back.

This photo depicts an obvious disagreement between a young mother and her young daughter. It’s real life, no one said being a mom was easy! Hopefully, we can remember these little battles and appreciate the stress our moms went through raising us!

Apology letters to mom

Saying “I’m sorry” takes a lot of courage. If the rift is painful, an apology letter may be in order. Apology letters can be a tool to work out your thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t mean you have to send it to your mother. On the other hand, if you’re not on speaking terms, sending a note in the mail may be the only choice.

An apology letter to your mom or mother-in-law is a very mature and healing act. Some therapists may recommend this process as part of therapy. Sometimes it’s the mother who needs to say she is sorry. Both forgiveness and saying sorry is a gift in itself, if you are ready for it.

Apologies written on colored post it notes.
Apology notes to mom.

Forgetting Mother’s Day

We don’t want to admit it, but Mother’s Day can be a test to see how much our family cares. If our children forget or don’t recognize Mother’s Day, it hurts.

When my son and his wife became first-time parents, I was happy to step back and see them move to the forefront. I’m still a mom, but the time of “critical mom support” was past. That’s for the moms in the trenches who most need it.

But what if a son or daughter really forgot Mother’s Day? Life gets pretty crazy, especially for new parents and demanding jobs. I am not making excuses, but it seems that sons tend to forget more than daughters. There is many a tale of women trying to get men to remember dates. You must allow some grace, we all can’t be event superstars.

Pink tulips over a white-washed wood wall; a man slaps palm of hand to head; a gift tag reads "Happy Mother's Day".
What to do when a son or daughter forgot Mother’s Day?

If you are the one who forgot, you are really going to have to go the epic route to make up for it. If your mom knows ahead of time that you had something going in, she might see her way around the faux pas. How they recover may be the best gift of all.

Single moms and pregnant teen moms on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can hold a different meaning for different people. It is not always the joyous time that it should or could be. A woman may have visions of raising a family together with the father, and it doesn’t happen. A single woman can have an unexpected pregnancy she didn’t plan on. Maybe a woman is going through divorce, and navigating a new life.

The heavy decision of adoption could be weighing heavily on them. Making decisions alone is overwhelming. Hugs and understanding helps a lot during this scary time. A wonderful gift would be to invest time in research and locating resources to aid in making tough decisions. Helping the single mom feel that she is not alone will be remembered for life.

Daughter hugs her mother.
A single Mother can still very much enjoy Mother’s Day.

Supporting moms in domestic violence

I have spent time working in an abused women’s resource center. One of the most thoughtful donations I had seen came from a women’s group. They had put together “self care” bags for the moms, with uplifting messages of support, which included other self-care products. It also included a boxed cake mix, a can of frosting, and a cake pan – so the mother could bake a cake and celebrate HERSELF.

The woman who presented the donation told me “These woman don’t have much to celebrate, it’s important for them to celebrate the small things and small achievements.” Wow. That impacted me in a big way and why I love working on this website!

Mother’s Day grieving of deceased

There is a reason that poular terminology has changed to “Celebration of Life” instead of just “funeral.” LIFE is precious and means something, for all connected. It is our job to honor our loved ones who have passed on, and the loved ones that remain to mourn them.

Happy Mother’s Day to mom in heaven

Talking to the deceased is healthy and is an important part of the healing process. For mothers who have passed away, a visit to a gravesite can be an important ritual. If you have siblings, connect over a group text saying happy Mother’s Day to mom (or birthday). By acknowledging the grief, healing begins.

Woman sitting cross-legged on ground in front of her mother's gravestone.
Happy Mother’s Day to mom in heaven!

Here are some ideas to honor your mother in heaven:

  • set up a picture of your mother in a prominent place, place fresh flowers beside it
  • get together with family and share a story and happy memories
  • cook a meal that reminds you of mom
  • make a photo album that tells your mom’s story
  • make a memory pillow from an article of her clothing, or make a shadow box of keepsakes to remember her by
  • burn a candle for your mother, or use a candle that belonged to her
  • plant a perennial flower that will bloom every year or a tree as a living tribute to your mother
  • give to a charity, favorite cause, or woman’s shelter in your mother’s name
  • keep something handwritten by your mother when clearing out the estate
  • raise a toast to your mother
  • do a good deed in her honor
  • carry on one of her traditions

One of my mother’s traditions that I choose to carry on is putting flowers on loved one’s gravestones. Mom lovingly clipped the lilacs in bloom and whisked away bouquets to the local cemetery. Seldom do we realize the unnoticed gestures of kindness our mother’s performed in their lifetimes.

Mother’s day gift for miscarriage or loss of child

The title of “mother” holds true, no matter if her children are living or not. Motherhood still should be honored. Symbolic gifts and memorials, quiet moments to reflect, hugs and loving gestures can support the mother and father who are grieving a loss.

A mother mourns the baby’s life that could have been. A miscarriage or stillborn death leaves an emptiness that is difficult to deal with. It’s important to be sensitive and understand that the parents feel a need to honor that life.

There are, in fact, many material things to recognize such a life event. Places like Etsy.com provide caring and creative ideas:

  • miscarriage ornament
  • miscarriage necklace
  • “Forget-Me-Not” flower necklace
  • angel wing charms to add to a necklace
  • angel statues
  • self care gift baskets
A happy girl and boy running; a surreal background representing heaven.
A mother will always remember her children, even if they are lost at birth or later in life.

Death of a living child

Losing a child at any age is very, very painful. Allow the mom and dad the time to process the loss. Check with them periodically – respect their mourning period but be watchful that they are not headed into depression. Offer to walk with them and be in nature.

Offer to construct a small garden memorial, shadow box, or other acknowledgement of the child. Look for ways to honor their life, be available to listen when they need to talk. Share an activity or help them get involved with a cause that can bring purpose back into their life. Be a friend.

Mother’s Day and broken relationships

Although the social norm dictates we should be happy and celebrating, we are not. We are sad. It’s important to feel the sadness and acknowledge the emptiness. We grieve for the relationship that is not there, will never be there, or has suffered damage.

Mother with face in hands, part of a support group.
Support group for mother’s grieving.

Healing rituals can aid in helping us to feel better. This may amount to writing letters and notes in cards that are never sent. The important thing is to address your grieving on Mother’s Day. If all you can do is pray, then pray! Pray for yourself, pray to heal. If the other person is stubborn, or impossible to deal with, pray that those challenges will melt away, and they will have a change of heart.

Love the people you are with. Embrace the ones that give you joy, and the women who have been like mothers to you. Choose happiness, choose to add positivity to the world.

*I am not a psychologist and cannot give professional advice. If you are experiencing sadness and depression because of a broken relationship or a death of a loved one, please, please, please, seek medical help to deal with your grief.

Sad woman on Mother's Day.
Mother’s Day is not a joyous occasion for everyone. How to deal with sadness, or help other moms feeling lonely on Mother’s Day.
Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!