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How to celebrate Mother’s Day with those who’ve lost children

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Mother’s Day can be a bittersweet holiday for many women. It can be especially painful for women who’ve suffered miscarriages.

Q. I have two very close best friends and I’m worried about them with Mother’s Day coming up. One has had two miscarriages this past year and the other has been trying to get pregnant for the past five years. I just became a new mom and this is my first Mother’s Day and I am excited to celebrate it but at the same time I want to be sensitive to them on social media. I would actually like to do something for them to let them know I’m thinking about them but I am not sure how to go about it. How can I respect them and honor them this Mother’s Day without causing them any more pain?    

A. Mother’s Day can be one of those bittersweet holidays for many women. It can be especially painful for women who’ve suffered miscarriages, struggle with infertility, and who have lost children.

You’re a very kind friend to think of them and consider their feelings. Some women might want to be left alone and tend to avoid social media on Mother’s Day weekend and others may find comfort in the shared joys of their friends’ families. I know you don’t want to cause them any more grief but since these situations are highly individualized the only way to know for certain is to ask them.  

After the death of my first son I found being around babies and other pregnant too painful and Mother’s Day was a bitter reminder of my loss. I wanted to be left alone but at the same time I wanted to at least have my motherhood acknowledged. I still considered myself a mother even though I had no living child.  My non-motherhood was cruelly punctuated at church that Sunday many years ago when the pastor asked all the mom’s to stand up and receive a rose. A women I never met saw my sitting there crumpled over and crying and she came and held me while I silently sobbed. Several years passed before I would go to church on Mother’s Day again.

The pain that your friend’s may feel will be raw and personal and each woman responds to it in a different way. Reach out to them and let them know you’re thinking about them and ask them specifically what you can do to make their day better. If they live nearby, you can invite them over to your home for dinner so they won’t be alone but know they may decline because of your new baby. Don’t take it personally. For the friend who decides to spend the day in solitude, be respectful of that too. You can always send a text Saturday night that you’ll be there if they need you and ask them if they’d like to do something in a couple of days. Sometimes just being available and letting people know you care about their feelings is a great source of comfort.

Regarding social media etiquette on the subject; you can still share your pictures and tastefully celebrate the occasion with your other friends and family. I am sure your close friends will understand you’re not being boastful or intentionally hurtful to their feelings. If you like you can make a general acknowledgement to mom’s on that day who’ve lost children and those mom’s at heart who long for them. But the truth is social media timelines will be flooded with Mother’s Day pictures and messages. Some women simply find it too painful and opt to avoid social media altogether Mother’s Day weekend.

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