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How to Support a Struggling Friend this Mother’s Day

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter chapter.

Fundamentally, Mother’s Day is a celebration of familial love and appreciation and gratitude for growing up with a family member who loves us. It is itself both a celebration of and an act of love. For me, Mother’s Day (though I won’t be celebrating it with my mum in person this year) is one of my favourite days of the year and some of my fondest memories are associated with it. Particularly family visits to our local National Trust building because that’s my mum’s favourite place (though, I did get locked in on time, which was less than ideal to say the least, haha).

But, it’s important to recognise that Mother’s Day can be difficult for those who find this day and the period around it triggering. For some Mother’s Day doesn’t feel very warm, and can be really difficult to deal with both emotionally and mentally. I think those of us who are privileged to have positive associations with this day often forget that some struggle with this period and benefit from emotional support.

Though this day may typically be centred around mother figures, this doesn’t have to be the case. More broadly speaking, this period can be interpreted as being a celebration of platonic love. When you think of it this way, there’s much you can do to celebrate the love you share with a friend who is struggling through this period. You can also treat them and make them feel special and cared for, as you would with a mother figure, though obviously the means to get there would be slightly different.

For this reason, I’ve compiled a guide on how you can support a struggling friend through the period surrounding, and on, Mother’s Day.

Create a space in which they can open up to you

If you have some indication that someone may be struggling through this period, I think a great place to start is to make sure that they feel they can approach you with their problems. This can be done in whatever way fits your friendship, as each is different.

Whether you organise a chill film evening, just drop them a text or let them know they can approach you if they need to. People are more likely to open up if they feel emotionally supported and trust the other person is willing to listen to them.

But it’s important that this is done on their terms so try not to probe too much as this may make things worse for them. People will open up when it’s best for them. If they don’t open up to you, then it’s still important to have this space generally, even if it’s more of a distraction from what’s happening than part of the remedy.

Listen to them closely if they open up to you

I think this is the most important one. If someone confides in you about their struggles, then it’s important to really listen to what they need. The power of truly listening and understanding another, especially in these circumstances, can’t really be understated.

It’s vital that if your friend expresses how they are feeling that you put some time aside to genuinely understand them. Someone’s needs in this period will vary so it’s important to note that while I’ve tried to compile a comprehensive guide of how to support someone finding this period difficult based on my experience doing so, not everyone requires the same support. This is where really listening to them comes into play as how you can support someone depends entirely on them as an individual. It’s likely you’ll need to modify your support to suit their individual needs and truly hearing them enables you to do that.

Direct them to relevant support if need be

Though it’s important to provide emotional support for a friend, if you feel as though they would benefit from professional support then it’s important to notify them of potential sources of help if need be.

However, it’s important to understand that it’s up to the individual struggling to commit to this kind of support and all you can do is suggest options if they’re overwhelmed by this period

The following links are always a good place to start:

  • NHS information and advice for those dealing with bereavement, grief and loss
  • Cruse Bereavement Care – provide both local and national support, in person and also over the phone too
  • The Good Grief Trust – helps with finding national and local support for one’s situation
  • Marie Curie Support Line on 0800 090 2309
  • Red Cross support line on 0808 196 3651
  • Samaritans on 116 123 or send them an email (jo@samaritans.org)
  • Join Side by Side : Mind’s online community to connect with others over shared experiences

Create a list of places they love and try to visit as many as possible during this period

When I think of Mother’s Day, some of my favourite and my mum’s favourite memories include my family visits to my mum’s favourite places. This is something you can emulate for your struggling friend.

Whether this is visiting a beach, a theme park or a café, you can create special memories and, most importantly, help distract them from difficult feelings that may persist through this period. Putting thought into organising a trip to their favourite place shows how much you care for them and is an outward expression of your love for them. I’m certain they’ll really appreciate this gesture.

Give them a card and or present(s)

Usually, card and present giving is perceived as being synonymous with Mother’s Day. This can be a really lovely way of showing your appreciation for your mother.

Much in the same way, your friend will probably really value a card or gift of any kind during this period. This can be as low-key as you like and honestly is a really sentimental way of showing how much you care for them. It’s a way of giving them a keepsake and help them remember the ways in which you are there for them through this holiday.

Write them a letter telling them all the ways you appreciate them

Even more sentimental is the act of writing them a personal letter demonstrating your love for them. This may seem a bit sappy for some friendships but may suit yours (depending on the dynamic you have). And this can be extremely meaningful for your friend.

Mother’s Day is ultimately about expressing your love and showing the ways you appreciate the familial love that you have. This holiday can be just as much about supporting and demonstrating your platonic love for your struggling friend.

Watch some friendship-themed movies or have a games night

 A perfect way of distracting your friend is to have a movie or games night. This is a very chill way of getting together and distracting them from troubling emotions they may have at this time. Plus, it will be equally as enjoyable for you also, because who doesn’t enjoy a more chilled out kind of evening?

Get away for a weekend

If they’re feeling particularly weighed down by this holiday and if you’re happy to splash out, then it may be worth organising a mini holiday. This is a way of completely getting them away from their day-to-day life and may help distract them from their emotions. You could stay in the UK and have a stay-cation or travel further afield – whatever your budget permits!

Make them breakfast in bed (if you’re housemates) / host a brunch / make dinner together

Cooking together is great for wellbeing and treating them to either breakfast, brunch or dinner is even better. It’s a way of showing them how much you appreciate them, and is a take on the Mother’s Day classic of making your mum breakfast in bed. This is a really great way of demonstrating your love for them, and, successful or not, is definitely a way of creating some special memories.

Host a tea party

Who doesn’t love afternoon tea? This classic Mother’s Day staple can be also used to help make your friend feel better. This is a really wholesome and creative way of showing how much you care about them and definitely fits with the theme of the holiday, if this is something that they’d appreciate.

Get outside and go for a walk

Getting outside and going for a walk is a very low-key and potentially spontaneous way of helping your friend distract themselves from this troubling period. Being outdoors is so beneficial for your wellbeing, and if this suits your friend’s needs best, then it’s definitely a worthwhile suggestion. It’s also a perfect way of celebrating your friendship, particularly if you use it as an opportunity to take a mini localised tour of all their favourite places too. This can be an easy and cheap way of making special memories with them.

Make them something creative

Creativity and making crafts for your mother or mother-figure is often associated with this holiday. There’s no reason why you can’t also do the same for your friend! Similar to writing them a heartfelt letter, this is a really wholesome and kind way of showing how much you love them and making them feel appreciated. You could make a scrapbook of all your favourite memories, write them a poem or get stuck into arts and crafts. The possibilities are endless!

Exercise together

Similar to getting out for a walk, exercising together will be really beneficial for their mental health if this is something they’d enjoy. It’s a really great way of letting go and forgetting any negative emotions this time may bring them. Yoga is a brilliant form of less taxing exercise that can suit anyone. This is a perfect way of getting together, celebrating the friendship but also honouring the need to nourish one’s mental health and is a brilliant coping mechanism for someone who’s struggling and would benefit from exercise.

Buy them flowers

Alternatively, buying flowers can be a way of demonstrating to your mum that you love them for Mother’s Day. You could buy your friend their favourite flowers can be a lovely gesture, especially if your friend still wants to celebrate the holiday in some capacity.

Go out for a picnic

Weather-permitting, this is a fantastic way of getting outside and celebrating your friendship this Mother’s Day. Plus, you can have plenty of fun preparing food, snacks, drinks, a picnic playlist and activities that suit your friendship. In many ways, this preparation is where the fun lies. Planning a picnic can be a really great way of distracting them from any upset or grief, replacing these feelings with them of positive emotions instead.

Visit a National Trust site or building together

This is a bit of a personal one, but I really do associate the National Trust with Mother’s Day because of my own family tradition. This is a brilliant way of getting together with your friend and getting out this Mother’s Day. Each National Trust location is different and offers a unique experience. But for history or nature-enthusiasts, this is a perfect way of celebrating your friendship and making unique memories.

Hopefully this guide will help you support your struggling friend this Mother’s Day. Though this may be a difficult time for them, there’s definitely ways you can help them get through this. I think the most important thing about this holiday is making someone who means a lot to you feel appreciated and loved, which is something you can do for your friend as much as you would do to your own mother figure.

Hi, my name's Anna and I'm a third year BA Philosophy and Theology student at the University of Exeter. I'm interested in writing pieces on current affairs and sex and relationships (and Harry Styles because I'm such a huge fan, haha).