Do you know someone who is dreading Mother’s Day? The commemorative celebration filled with flowers, joy, and appreciation can turn into a trigger of despair for many women. As a childless stepmom of 28 years, I can remember a number of times it was unenjoyable.

A woman might be depressed or discouraged on Mother’s Day for multiple reasons: a death (especially a child or a mother), divorce, infertility, singleness, illness, a wayward child, or—being a stepmom. Surprised?

When a woman marries a man with children, she often steps into a new world that is complex, confusing, and lonely. And she can be ambushed by the sadness that accompanies Mother’s Day. She does the job of a mother, but she often doesn’t get the same attention, appreciation, or support.

Here is a list of suggestions on how to lift the spirits of a hurting woman on the day we celebrate mothers.

1. Pray for God to reveal a woman who needs encouragement this year.

I am amazed at the prompting and people God brings to my mind when I ask. Sometimes it’s the lady behind the counter at Dunkin’ Donuts, sometimes it’s a dear friend.

2. Pray for that woman between now and Mother’s Day.

The hurting woman often avoids places celebrating Mother’s Day—which might include church. Many women avoid attending on Mother’s Day because the celebration is one more reminder and stab to her wounded heart. Don’t judge her or pressure her to go.

3. Send a card.

It can say something as simple as, “Glad we are friends.” It’s the card and the thoughtfulness that count, not necessarily the words you use.

4. If you wish, do something a little more meaningful.

There are a number of gestures you can do. You can simply call, take her out for a meal, send a small gift or flower, or any memento that reveals, “I see your pain today.”

5. Give grace.

Understand that the person you want to encourage may not be emotionally able to chat or socialize.

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6. Make time for the hurting woman.

If possible, spend an hour that weekend for lunch, the park, or the cemetery. Just knowing someone cares can change the entire day.

7. For the single parent, offer to take her child to the dollar store so Mommy has a gift.

It’s not the cost of the gift or the wrapping that counts. This simple, kind gesture gives her children the opportunity to say “thanks.”

8. For the stepmom, nudge her husband to do something nice in appreciation for parenting his kids.

If he refuses, you do something. At least she will know that someone sees the hard work she does.

9. When a death has occurred, photos, mementos, or fond memories of the deceased can ease the grief.

Family members often fear their loved one will be forgotten. A shared memory says, “I’m missing him/her today too.”

10. Infertility can be a hard one to comfort.

Most women in this circumstance share that their Mother’s Day goal is merely to get through the day. When a woman’s womb longs for a baby—weep with her. She is grieving her loss. Don’t minimize her pain, or offer cliché answers such as, “Just relax, it will happen” or “At least you can adopt.”

This Mother’s Day ask God to point you to one woman who is dreading the day. Even if God is the only one who sees your effort, compassion never fails.

Copyright © 2012 by Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.