Close up of a pink rose

Love and Loss on Mothering Sunday 2021

Life Events Team

Mothering Sunday, or Mother’s Day as it’s popularly known, is a really big day for families.

Under normal circumstances, retailers sell cards and gifts weeks in advance, shops everywhere have special displays, and cafes, restaurants and hotels all have their special menus and deals to help us ‘treat our mums’.

With a celebratory mood promoted everywhere, we know that every year, there’s a groundswell of appreciation for motherly love and for all that mums do to oil the wheels of family life. It’s what makes it such a great opportunity to speak of the motherly love of God and God’s people too.

We also know that every year, there will be many for whom mother’s day is a difficult day. It reminds people of mums they have lost, babies or children they have lost, babies they can’t conceive, difficult relationships with mothers, or of mums who are unwell.

So we know that underneath the show of flowers, gifts, treats and cards, there can also be complication and sadness.

As we approach Mothering Sunday 2021, we know that like so many other occasions throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, any emotions we already had about this day will have a greater intensity.

Most children of school age have spent vastly more time with their mothers in the last 12 months than they would have done in normal circumstances. The relationship with mum will therefore be different this year – closer perhaps, with more gratitude, or perhaps more strained.

Many adults with older mothers will likely have spent vastly less time with their mothers, experiencing the pain of separation from family like no other time in history.

There will be less ways to treat our mums too, since shopping trips, an afternoon tea in a café, an evening meal out in a restaurant, or an overnight stay in a hotel are all not possible. Day trips out to beauty spots are also generally off the table. These special times that we would have spent with our mums and the memories we would normally have made on this day are lost.

The general picture of bereavement across the nation is also very different this year. Many people are experiencing unprocessed grief since hospital visits, funerals and gathering with friends and family in the usual ways after a funeral have been severely restricted. Those who have lost their mothers and grandmothers during the pandemic, whether that has been due to Covid or another cause, may be harbouring regrets about the way they said goodbye, or couldn’t say goodbye.

So how can churches respond when we ‘celebrate’ Mothering Sunday in 2021? Here are a few practical suggestions:-

  1. In services, whether physical or online, acknowledge the difference of this year’s Mothering Sunday and that it’s a day when we may carry a greater mix of emotions.
  2. In the week before Mothering Sunday, send out a newsletter or post from your social media account suggesting ways in which families can prepare at home for Mother’s Day. See this article for some craft ideas.
  3. Support those who are bereaved by pointing them to AtALoss.org, where they can find help immediately. The website address can be put on your service sheet, and/or as part of the online service end-screen. You might also share it from your social media account.
  4. If your church is closed, anyone thinking of a mum they no longer see can light a candle online as they remember them – share this from your social media account.
  5. If your church is open, enable hygienic tea-light candle lighting for the mums we miss – each person takes an unlit candle and lights it from one that is already burning. You could provide a large candle that always burns, or make sure there are always other tealights burning. Have hand sanitiser on a nearby table.
  6. Use Mothering Sunday as a catalyst to talk within your PCC and pastoral teams about offering bereavement support more generally. The Life Events team and the Christian coalition Loss & HOPE have, and are still developing, a wealth of information, advice and resources to help you with this.
    1. See the Life Events bereavement webinar
    2. Visit Loss & HOPE (lossandhope.org) to see how they can help to equip your church in becoming more bereavement friendly.