For many, Mother’s Day is a special day when you take your mom out to a nice brunch and shower her with all the love and attention she deserves. For others, the holiday can bring some uncomfortable emotions to the surface. If one of your close friends has a difficult (or nonexistent) relationship with her mom, it’s important to let her know that you’re there for her. But as we all know, family issues can be a really touchy subject. So what can you do to support a friend who has a complicated relationship with her mom this Mother’s Day?
“When someone has a difficult or nonexistent relationship with their mom, they undergo a similar grief process as someone would when they lose a parent, but in a different way,” Christie Tcharkhoutian, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells HelloGiggles. “They are mourning the loss of who they wish their mom could be to them, and living with the reality of who their mother is, recognizing her limitations of mothering and acknowledging the painful experience.”
According to Tcharkhoutian, people who have difficult relationships with their moms don’t receive the same type of sympathy as those who’ve lost a mother. That makes sense: People don’t typically like to publicize their toxic family dynamics for all the world to see. “Oftentimes, they hold the pain in isolation, without having the space to process this relationship,” Tcharkhoutian says.
Since you probably know your friend well and know how Mother’s Day makes her feel, the key here is to reach out.
The reality is, it’s easier said than done. But all you have to do is start with a simple text. So here’s what you should text a friend this Mother’s Day, according to experts.
1 “Hey, I know today isn’t the easiest for you. So let me know if you need me. Love you!”
The best advice for supporting a friend who has a difficult or nonexistent relationship with their mom is to simply ask them how you can best support them.
“I know it seems obvious, but it’s incredible how avoidant we are of difficult topics,” Lauren Consul, licensed marriage and family therapist and the founder of GreatFullDays, tells HelloGiggles. So be direct. If she responds and needs your support, great. If not, don’t take it personally.
“Just say you will be there for them when they are ready to talk,” she says. “That’s the best gift you can give them.”
2 “How’s today going? I know how much you hate it. I’m here if you want to do something together.”
Ask how your friend is doing and invite her out. “As a therapist, I think that this is one of the most meaningful actions someone can take if their friend has a complex relationship or no relationship with their mother,” Annie Wright, LMFT, licensed psychotherapist, and clinical director of Evergreen Counseling, tells HelloGiggles.
To support your friend, be sure to acknowledge that Mother’s Day is tough on her. Then, invite her out to do something. “As simple as this, it can be a very touching and supportive action,” Wright says.
3 “I know how much it bothers you, but you aren’t a bad person for not reaching out to her today.”
Eirene Heidelberger is the founder of GITMom and has been estranged from her mother for many years. Based on her experience, she tells HelloGiggles it’s important to validate your friend’s feelings.
When you have an amazing relationship with your own mom, it’s not uncommon to feel like you can “fix” other people’s issues. Although you may have good intentions by telling your friend to reach out to her mother, it’s not that simple. So don’t push.
Instead, Heidelberger suggests texting something that lets your friend know you support her actions. Make it as personalized as you can and be sure to remind her of how amazing she is.
4 “Hey I know you wanted to call your mom today. Let me know if you want to grab dinner and talk about it or just get your mind off it.”
If you know your friend was thinking of reaching out to her mom on this day, she may need support afterwards. So offer to be there for her after the fact.
“Give her the opportunity to express what she is really feeling and be a positive influence to steer her away from focusing on the negativity of it all,” says social worker Tina Muller, the family wellness manager at Mountainside Treatment Center. “Even though you might have plans with your mom on Mother’s Day, it’s good to reach out and ask if she wants to talk about it or if she would like to meet up a little later to get her mind off it.”
5 “Thinking of you”
As simple as it is, Consul says you should never underestimate the power of a “Thinking of you” text. “This doesn’t require a response, but leaves it open if they want,” she says. It also just reminds them that they aren’t alone.
At the end of the day, it’s not about trying to “fix” your friend’s relationship nor is it about saving her from hurt. It’s about being there for her and showing how much you care.