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Everyone Needs Some Mothering
The Widows' Path by Ferree Hardy
It comes around every may: Mother’s Day. Not everyone does something for it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I, myself, have mixed feelings about it. Shouldn’t every day be “Mother’s Day?” And “Father’s Day?” After all, one of the Ten Commandments is “Honor thy father and thy mother.” (Ex. 20:12). But since the day is significant for many people, I’ve learned to add a little extra honor and respect to the mothers in my life by sending a card, taking time for a visit, or giving a gift. If your mother is still with you, Mother’s Day is a happy, extra opportunity to tell her that you love her.
For some, though, Mother’s Day is kind of like when we were children, lined up and waiting for our name to be called to join a team on the playground. It’s a very insecure feeling. Will the team captain even see us? Will he or she call out our name? Will the other kids cheer and make us feel like valuable members of the team? Or will we have to walk over to the bench and sit all alone?
Some mothers don’t know if their busy children will remember them. Other moms have empty arms where a son or daughter used to be. A widow, too, might be reminded more of her loss; it’s complicated, and the turmoil isn’t easy to describe, explain, or resolve. On the other hand, if our own mother has passed away, we might acutely feel her absence while the rest of the world spins on.
Whether you wish you still had a mom you could talk to, or you are a mom who’s waiting, hoping to be blessed, everyone can use a little mothering. Even the smallest attention can bring the brightest encouragement and make an unforgettable difference.
The following ideas can be adapted for anyone in your life—not only widows, not only mothers, not only women. Plenty of widowers, shut-ins, and newcomers to your community would love to be surprised with one of these remembrances. They don’t need to cost a lot either. Homegrown or handmade is often superior to store-bought. A genuine smile and greeting the person by name are priceless.
Gift ideas for widows with children at home:
Family Fun Basket: Individual-sized bags of chips, pretzels, or popcorn for each family member, small toys, a card game, or a jigsaw puzzle, soft drinks, and something special just for mom, if you know what she likes. Otherwise, a houseplant or cut lilacs are usually appreciated by all.
Fresh as a Daisy Basket: Handmade or fragrant soaps with scrubbies or new washcloths, potted flowers for mom, toiletries like new toothbrushes and toothpaste; sample-size lotions, lip balms, sunscreen; scented candles.
Suppertime Basket: Why not a family dinner package they can use anytime? For example: Pasta Night—a package of spaghetti, a jar of sauce, bagged salad and dressing, garlic bread, and cookies for dessert. Add a red and white checkered plastic tablecloth to make it extra festive. Vary this with a taco or BBQ theme and decor. Or invite the family over for dinner at your place.
A family breakfast basket for the weekend. Mix and match any of the following: individual boxes of cereal, a dozen eggs, bacon or sausage, frozen waffles, toaster treats, individual orange juices, bananas, instant oatmeal packets.
Strawberry shortcake night. Surprise them with a basket of fresh strawberries, biscuits or pound cake (whichever they prefer). Include whipped cream or ice cream as an extra treat.
Root beer float night. Provide some 2L bottles of chilled root beer, vanilla ice cream, and maybe even some large glass mugs to serve them up in. Don’t forget the straws and spoons. Check the dollar stores for glassware.
Leave a flowering potted bush on her porch along with a pretty watering can.
Plant a new tree in her yard, perhaps one of her late husband’s favorites (with her permission, of course). Be sure to water it well before you leave!
Surprise the family by having something delivered to the house that they can all enjoy: a box of chocolates, a bunch of helium balloons, or even a hot pizza.
Add a gift card from a local ice cream shop or family restaurant to a “thinking of you” card.
Getting a group together is a community strengthening time for both the givers and the receivers:
At a group event, feature a cupcake tower. Provide individual boxes to take a cupcake home in.
Get together with another family to provide childcare for a day, or an afternoon, so that mom can get some time to herself.
Take the children out to shop for a gift or card for their mom.
Schedule a day or half-day to send teams of people to help widows and shut-ins with home maintenance and repairs.
Gift ideas for individual widows:
A devotional booklet or a pocket Bible in a small cloth tote bag along with a potted herb.
A gift card or cards, attached to a small bouquet of silk flowers.
A greeting card from you, along with a personal note, or handwritten letter if you live far away and have news to share.
A gift bag with a china teacup and saucer (there are lovely ones at most thrift stores), a box of herbal tea and some buttery shortbread cookies, or a jar of lemon curd and some fresh scones.
A gift bag with a coffee mug, a bag of coffee, and some muffins.
A gift bag for letter writers: include some good pens or pencils, stamps, stationery, or a box of all-occasion greeting cards.
Journals, magazines, word searches, Sudoku, and crossword puzzle books are also nice additions to a card or gift bag.
The best present of all, though, is your presence. Inviting a widow to join you for a meal means one less hour of loneliness for her.
The best present of all, though, is your presence. Inviting a widow to join you for a meal means one less hour of loneliness for her. Stability and familiarity are precious commodities for people whose lives have been upended. Adapt these ideas to support your friends on a regular basis, such as once a month, or on certain holidays, but don’t make promises you can’t keep. A promise not kept is a hurt that’s hard to forget.
Regular phone calls, letters, or visits mean a lot, too. But please don’t stop the gifts! All of the ideas in this article have an element of practical and financial help. The top two challenges of widowhood are loneliness and finances. These ideas help alleviate both. And don’t forget the widowed men and others I mentioned. They need your support too.
If you’re the widowed person, don’t hesitate to reach out to others before they reach out to you. Helping other people is a surefire way to start healing from grief. Everyone needs someone watching out for them, someone who’s on their side, who believes in them and has worthwhile dreams for them. We all need to be treated kindly and encouraged—we all need some mothering every now and then. Use these ideas as a springboard to come up with your own ideas to help all year long.
Man or woman, married or not, we can all mother someone; that means we’re supporting, encouraging, and helping them know that they matter; they’ve not been forgotten or sent to sit on the bench, alone.
Let's have Mother's Day every day,
Ferree Hardy has helped thousands of widows through her book, “Postcards from the Widows’ Path,” small groups, speaking, and personal coaching, but touching one life at a time is what matters most to her. She holds a BA from Moody Bible Institute, and was a pastor’s wife in Ohio for over twenty years before her first husband died. She’s happily remarried now, and her readers know that moving seems to have become a hobby for her. But she also enjoys backyard chickens, aims to read fifty books a year, and loves to bake. Learn more by visiting her blog.