11 Meaningful Ways to Help a Grieving Mother or Step-Mom

Updated

Anyone who has ever lost a child knows that this type of loss is one of the most painful to endure. While there’s no need for you to fix their pain or make things better, there are ways in which you can support them as they learn to cope with their loss.

You can learn how to help a grieving mother by listening to her tell you and others what she’s in most desperate need of following the death of her child. This can be anything from needing help taking care of her other children, doing household chores, or helping her sort out the household finances while she’s grieving her loss.

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It’s not at all unusual for a grieving mother or step-mom to plunge into the most profound grief and sadness imaginable. The following are ways to help them survive this unimaginable loss. 

What You Can Say to Help a Grieving Mother

One of the first tips any mother who’s lost a child will give you is to avoid trying to fix what’s happened. There’s nothing you can do or say that will make things better. Their child has died, and nothing will ever be the same again.

The best anyone can hope for is that the mother makes it through her grief journey in one piece. Here are a few things you can say to show that you love and support them through this devastating loss. 

1. “I am here if you ever need to talk.”

A mother who’s lost her child is looking to their friends and family for strength and support. Try your best to look them in the eye when you’re offering your condolences, even if your own eyes are filled with tears and sadness.

It’s okay to remain authentic and to show your emotions resulting from this loss. However, do not shift the focus from their experience to your own. As you’re inviting them to talk, you should be prepared to listen without judgment.

2. “You and your family are in my thoughts.”

Allow a grieving parent the opportunity to express themselves to you even if it takes a while for them to get out their words in between their sobs. Don’t judge their reactions to their grief, and don’t criticize them. Simple words as these may trigger a release of emotions. Prepare yourself to offer comfort and lend an ear to the grieving mother. 

3. “I don’t know what to say.”

Just being there in front of your friend or loved one shows more support than anything you can ever say. Your presence makes them feel supported and acknowledged. When words fail you, consider sharing your favorite memories of their child.

Express to the grieving mother the impact, no matter how small, their child made in your life. If you shared private moments or conversations during some one on one time at the park or when going out for a bite to eat with their child, fill them in on the details of the conversations you had when mom wasn’t around.

These little things add up to healing for a mother who’s trying everything to grasp what remains of their child’s memory. 

4. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Sometimes keeping it simple is the best way to approach sharing your condolences, especially when you don’t know what else to say. Knowing how to help a grieving parent is not only about saying the right things to them. It’s about being sincere in the things you do say.

A simple “I’m sorry you have to suffer through this” is enough to convey your sympathy. There’s no need to add anything else to it or to make small talk. 

What You Can Do to Help a Grieving Mother If You Can See Her In Person

Supporting someone in person allows you to offer your presence, love, and support in ways that are impossible to do at a distance. You’re able to offer hugs and a shoulder to cry on, as well as practical help - preparing meals, cleaning the house, and doing laundry. The following tips present different ways to help a grieving mother as she struggles with coping with her grief.  

5. Allow her to share her grief

When you show up to support a friend or loved one who's coping with the death of an adult child, don't make the visit about you. A bereaved parent wouldn't want you to show up at the door to offer your condolences to have you burst into tears over the loss of your child.

Feeling sorry for their loss and expressing your regrets are one thing, but be careful not to make this about you, especially if you share a similar experience. Your loved one won't be able to comfort you or contribute much in helping you deal with your emotional outburst. The best thing to do is to allow them to process their loss without bringing your personal experiences into the mix. 

6. Offer practical help

Whenever you offer a grieving mother a lending hand, be specific about what you're willing to help out with and when. So many people will say, "please call me if you need anything," but this shifts the responsibility back to the person who's grieving.

Often, a person that has suffered the loss of a child isn't thinking about you and the offer you made to help. In the whirlwind of visitors, they may forget who offered what to them. I

t's more helpful to them if you show up at their door to take care of something specific such as mowing the grass, taking the kids to the park, or walking the dog.

7. Bring a thoughtful gift

Books on loss and bereavement are valuable gifts to offer to a parent who’s lost a child. They help educate a parent on what to expect as they grieve their child’s death.

A good book can guide a grieving parent through their journey through grief or provide uplifting quotes for grieving mothers who may need comfort through this difficult time. Books also help educate parents on navigating their marriage or relationship after suffering such a significant loss. 

8. Be understanding

A grieving mother will suffer the loss of her child for a lifetime. It'll take some time for them to get back to their everyday routines and resume their lives. Don't expect them to get over their loss or to go back to normal. After the death of their child, nothing will ever go back to being normal again.

The anticipated changes in a mother who has lost her child include going through a period of brain fog and forgetfulness, disinterest in socializing, and a general withdrawal from her old life.

Be understanding when you are on the receiving end of dismissal or a less than thoughtful way of declining future invitations. Allow them the time to heal from their loss without adding the pressure of navigating friendship etiquette. 

What You Can Do to Help a Grieving Mother From Far Away

Supporting someone from a distance can present some challenges, especially if the two of you shared a close bond. Sometimes the circumstances keeping you apart may make it impossible to travel to help a grieving mother in person, but there are still ways where your love and support can make a significant impact from far away. 

9. Keep in contact

Check in with them regularly, even if it’s just a text you send to see how they’re doing. A simple text message has the power to make such a difference in a grieving mother's life, especially when they're feeling alone in their grief.

Now and then, set aside time to have a telephone conversation where you devote your undivided attention to the grieving mother. Allow her to tell you as much or as little as she wants to share with you about her grief journey so far.

10. Listen

It’s not possible to fix a grieving parent’s pain. It’s useless attempting to rationalize it or compare it to other similar losses others have gone through. Unless you’ve been through this type of loss and can offer affirmative ways to help them cope with their grief, keep from providing advice or opinions on how they should deal with their loss.

The best thing you can do is listen to them for as long as they need. 

11. Send them reminders 

A lasting gift with a significant impact is when you send little reminders to a grieving mother that you're thinking of their child well beyond their date of death. If you see a sign or anything that reminds you of their child, reach out and share it with their mother.

It can be anything such as a butterfly, a business logo, or even a tattoo on a person. Consider taking a picture of it and texting it to the mother with a short note attached. She'll be grateful to receive a sign that their child's memory still makes an impact on your life. 

Helping a Grieving Mother 

You can have a tremendously powerful impact on someone's life just by being there for them. Demonstrating love, compassion, and empathy when a friend or loved one has lost a child is noble and has the potential to shift a mother's grief trajectory.

This type of loss transforms you into a different person. Your loved one will never again be the person you knew before their child's death. You can help them by supporting them as they learn to navigate their new normal.

A simple text message has the power to make such a difference in a grieving mother's life, especially when they're feeling alone in their grief.

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