On Mother’s Day, we typically celebrate our living mothers, grandmothers, and mother-figures. But for some families these loved ones have passed on, making Mother’s Day a difficult time of grief and loss. There may no longer be flowers or gifts, family meals, or events associated with Mother’s Day for these families. Certainly, everyone grieves differently and for those who have experienced the more recent loss of a mother, the pain of Mother’s Day might be too much to bear.
For others, however, honoring a lost mother on Mother’s Day might be just what they need. Both funeral homes and individual families can find ways to pay tribute to mothers on Mother’s Day even after death. These tributes can help channel grief, facilitate healing, and provide support to hurting families.
History of Mother’s Day
The official Mother’s Day holiday arose from the efforts of a woman following the death of her mother, not while her mother was still living. On the one year anniversary of her mother’s death, May 9, 1906, Anna Jarvis held a small memorial service at her home with a few friends to pay tribute to her mother. By 1908, Jarvis organized two Mother’s Day celebrations: one at her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia and the other at a retail store in Philadelphia. In honor of her deceased mother, Jarvis sent 500 white carnations (her mother’s favorite flower and now official symbol of a mother’s pure love) to the church. In the years to follow, Jarvis and other supporters lobbied for the official declaration of a Mother’s Day holiday and by 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated throughout the United States and in other countries. Finally, on May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
How to Get Involved – Mother’s Day Remembrance Service
As a funeral home, you can encourage the continued honoring of mothers who have passed by hosting a Mother’s Day Remembrance Service. The service could be held on or near Mother’s Day either at your funeral home or another location of your choosing, perhaps a public park or gardens. You can keep the invite list small by inviting only families you have served or you might consider opening the service to the community as a whole. The service can be as formal or informal as you choose; the main purpose is simply to provide a time and place for families to remember and honor their lost mothers. Some ideas you might consider for the service include the following:
- Collect photos of mothers in advance of the service to create a tribute video for viewing at the service;
- Hold a candle-lighting ceremony in honor of mothers;
- Allow families to share favorite stories about their mothers;
- Give families the opportunity to write messages to their mothers and collect the messages for a ceremonial cremation or burial;
- Encourage families to bring their mothers’ favorite recipe, poem, or piece of wisdom for inclusion in a group tribute book;
- Give families flowers (maybe a white carnation) or seed packets for planting either at home or in a communal memorial garden as part of the service;
- Invite families to bring a small donation in honor of their mothers, for example, collect toiletries for a local women’s shelter;
- Provide a meal, snacks, or desserts and encourage families to fellowship with each other and share in their collective grief.
How to Get Involved – Offer Suggestions for Grieving Families
Even if your funeral home chooses not to host a Mother’s Day Remembrance Service, you can still support families struggling with lost loved ones on and around Mother’s Day by offering them suggestions as to how they can pay tribute to their lost mothers. You might consider sending a Mother’s Day letter to families with suggestions or posting suggestions on your website or Facebook page as well as links to articles on coping with grief during Mother’s Day. Some suggestions you might offer families who wish to pay tribute to their lost mothers include the following:
- Plant a memory garden or tree in honor of your mother;
- Create a memory book with family photographs and written memories;
- Collect your mother’s recipes and make a cookbook honoring your mother;
- Complete a special craft or project in honor of your mother, for example, a memorial stepping stone or bench, a piece of jewelry, or something related to her favorite hobby;
- Go to your mother’s favorite restaurant, watch her favorite movie, play her favorite game, listen to her favorite music, or read her favorite book;
- Gather with family and friends to share memories;
- Visit your mother’s gravesite and bring flowers, small gifts, written memories, and/or photographs;
- Donate to or volunteer for your mother’s favorite charity;
- Visit other mothers, for example, those in a nursing home or senior center who may not have any visitors on Mother’s Day.
Of course, coping with the death of a loved one is never easy but there are some days, such as Mother’s Day, when it might be exceedingly difficult. Knowing others around you are celebrating the special day while you mourn can be unbearable. And while nothing will alleviate the pain of loss completely, refocusing Mother’s Day celebrations to include mothers who have passed may provide a small measure of comfort to families struggling with such a loss. There are countless ways to honor a lost mother on Mother’s Day; the important point is to embrace her spirit and keep her memory alive.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers both those who are with us and those who have passed!
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