A very dear friend of mine recently had a baby boy. He is absolutely perfect – ten fingers and ten toes, a nice blend of chubby and warm, perfect for snuggling and tickling. Mother’s Day for her this year will be a uniquely magical experience, filled with the fresh joys of new motherhood. But it certainly was not joyful last year. Or the year before. Or the four years before that, when Mother’s Day served only as a catalyst for the pain and heartache of infertility.
The mother of another dear friend passed away a few years ago – an indescribable loss at a tragically young age. For this friend, what used to be a joyful day is now marred by grief. Mother’s Day represents another Sunday she has no reason to celebrate, her grief sharpened by pandemic displays of flowers, cards and gifts she has no reason to buy.
Yet another dear friend lost his pregnant wife on Mother’s Day. The annual celebration now serves as a poignant reminder of his loss, perhaps softened by many, many years of remembering, honoring and, eventually, rebuilding. For him, Mother’s Day is a reminder of a former life, a memory that becomes less painful with each passing year.
I could go on and on, listing off people in my life whose enjoyment of Mother’s Day is complicated by grief – painful, acute, fresh, complicated and very, very real. It’s a day to celebrate the women in our lives who mean something, a day filled with joy and laughter and memories. And because it represents such significant love and happiness, it can easily morph into a day filled with correspondingly significant pain.
As funeral professionals, your calling is to recognize and anticipate grief, finding a way to mitigate its destruction and push on toward healing. So how do you do that on a day when so many people grieve in so many different ways?
Here are a few ways you can serve the members of your community who are grieving on Mother’s Day:
Leave a bin of flowers at your local cemetery.
It’s natural to spend time with loved ones on Mother’s Day – even if doing so requires a visit to the local cemetery. Consider placing a bin of single-stem flowers (carnations, tulips, daisies, etc.) at the entrance of your local cemetery throughout the weekend (and be sure to freshen them at least once a day). Leave behind a sign encouraging visitors to take one home or leave one on the grave of their loved ones, and include a phone number they can call if they’d like additional grief support.
Hold a memorial service.
Memorial services aren’t just effective during the winter holidays – those who have lost a loved one may experience their loss even more on Mother’s Day. Organize a memorial service and invite your client families. Place an ad in the local newspaper extending the invitation to other members of your community. Then, plan a service that is meaningful and constructive – host a guest speaker, offer coffee and dessert and leave space for socializing. Community is one of the most effective ways to diffuse the loneliness of grief.
Send flower arrangements to your local churches.
When I was growing up, we always had bouquets of lilies at the front of the church on Mother’s Day. And – more often than not – one of them had my grandmother’s name on it. The flowers served as a visual reminder of the loved ones who had passed away, a small piece of them remaining to help celebrate the day with those they’d left behind. Ask your local churches if you can donate a flower arrangement on Mother’s Day to help members of their congregation remember their loved ones, then ask the pastor to send the bouquet home with someone who needs a little extra grief support.
Host a Mother’s Day brunch.
There are few things as disheartening as having nowhere to go on holidays, and the loss of annual traditions can be a painful catalyst for grief. Offering your client families a new tradition can help lessen the impact. Invite those who are grieving this year to a Mother’s Day brunch at your funeral home. Make sure you serve good food and plenty of coffee, and then let your client families enjoy each other’s company. Send them home with a small gift – a flower, a candle, a book – and let them know you and your staff are available if they need additional support.
Offer free resources at your local library.
Are there particular grief resources you would like to offer your client families? Consider leaving a supply at your local library. Display a sign inviting patrons to take a free copy, and include your contact information for those who would like additional resources and/or support. Keep in mind the demographics – be sure to include books or resources that would be helpful to young children as well as those aging patrons who frequent the local library.
The most important thing you can do for your community is to ensure they know you are there to be a resource and assist them through their grief. As a funeral professional, you understand that grief is a complicated and unique process for everyone – and you are uniquely equipped to meet the individual needs of your communities. Making sure the members of your community are comfortable turning to you for grief support is a powerful way to meet their needs and increase your firm’s brand recognition.