Dealing with the grief of losing a mother: A helpful guide

Losing your mother or a motherly figure can be one of the most emotional and painful experiences you’ll ever go through. 

This blog will guide you through a myriad of emotions you may be experiencing and will provide useful tips on how to support children grieving the loss of a mother.

Missing your Mum on special occasions

If you are struggling with grief of losing your mother or a motherly figure, special occasions such as Mother’s Day, Christmas, Birthday’s or anniversaries can be challenging. Below we’ve compiled five useful tips to help you deal with loss.

Be kind to yourself – There are five stages of grief from denial to acceptance and you may experience each stage at different times. Understanding these different stages will help you to realise that all the strange feelings you are feeling are perfectly normal.

Talk to your loved ones or friends – By sharing your fondest memories and stories of your mother with someone, can help keep their memory alive and bring some sense of comfort.

Do an activity your mum would love – From cooking her favourite meal, baking a cake, a spot of gardening or even watching one of her favourite TV shows/ Films.

Visit their grave or memorial spot – Taking the time to visit your mother’s grave or memorial spot can help bring you some comfort and time to reflect. 

Practice self-care – Take the day to love and nurture yourself. Run yourself a hot bath, practise yoga, sing, dance, do things that make you smile.

Ask for help – Losing a parent or loved one can be a difficult process, there is no shame in asking for help or extra support if you feel like you are struggling. It maybe helpful to speak to someone outside of your family and friend circle such as your GP or a bereavement specialist. 

NHS approved, Cruse Bereavement Care offers a wide range of support, advice and information to children, young people and adults when someone dies.

Supporting grieving children

For a child who has recently suffered the loss of a mother or motherly figure, the feelings of grief can feel confusing and frustrating. 

Be patient – Children process and express grief differently from adults. Children may go from playing and laughing one minute to floods of tears the next. Be patient with them and let them know that it is ok to feel this way.

Consistency is key – Try to maintain household routines such as mealtimes, bedtimes etc. as much as possible. Structure and consistency are important to a child as they will help to create a sense of security.

Answer their questions – Naturally, children ask a lot of questions and this is no different when it comes to death. Answering any questions children might have about death and why it happens, will help give them a better understanding as to why they are experiencing certain emotions. If you find some questions too difficult to answer, there are many children’s books available that can help explain death in a ‘child friendly’ manner. You can find a list of over 60 children’s books on the topic of death and grief here.

Create a ‘Memory Box’ – Filling a box with photos, keepsakes and other special items is a great activity to do with children to help them feel more connected to a lost one. It is also a tangible item that children can keep going back to when they are feeling sad.

If you are concerned that your child is struggling to cope or have noticed any unusual behavioural changes, you can seek further help and advice from your GP or organisations like Child Bereavement UK and Hope Again.

Prioritising your health and wellbeing

It can be difficult to think of anything else when dealing with grief, but taking some time to focus on the importance of your health and wellbeing can be beneficial, and can even help clear your mind.

Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the most common cause of death and disability in women worldwide.

Losing a loved one to a disease such as cancer can spark worry into your own health and wellbeing. However, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risks of cancer: 

Tobacco use – Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death worldwide and is the leading cause of over 7 million deaths per year. Quitting at any age can make a huge difference, increasing your life expectancy and improving your quality of life.

Physical Activity – Maintaining a healthy weight and making physical activity part of your everyday life can help reduce your risks of cancer and other health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Alcohol – By reducing and limiting how much you drink, can reduce your risk of 7 cancers including breast, mouth and bowel cancers.

If you are worried about cancer in your family – If you have recently lost your mother or another strong female figure in your family to cancer and are worried if it could be hereditary, the Ovarian Cancer Action website offers a ‘Hereditary Cancer Risk Tool’ which can help to assess your risks of developing certain cancers.

Early detection saves lives – There are many different types of cancers, and symptoms are varied, however, the earlier cancer is detected the higher the chance that it can be successfully treated.

If you are concerned about your health or have experienced any unusual symptoms or changes in your body, don’t be afraid to contact your doctor immediately.


Arranging a burial for your loved one

Nothing can prepare you for how you might feel when someone close to you dies, whether it’s expected or not. It can feel overwhelming, devastating and strange, all at the same time. There’s lots to organise. And it can be difficult to know where to start.

We don’t tend to talk much about death, burial or the kind of funeral you might want. But it’s worth remembering that writing down your own wishes now can take stress and worry away from the people you love most when it’s their turn to make the arrangements.

Some people find comfort in the practical tasks they need to carry out. Of course, it helps if someone has planned ahead and left details of what they’d like, including where they’d like to be buried. If not, and if you haven’t arranged a burial before, here’s a guide to what you need to know.


What to do next

If your loved one dies in a care home or hospital, there should be someone to guide you through what to do next and how to register the death. This involves visiting the nearest Registry Office to where the person has died, taking along the medical certificate of death that’s been signed by a doctor. The Registrar will give you a green form that means a burial can go ahead. You will need to hand this to the Funeral Director you’ve chosen, if you have decided to use one, and not everyone does. You’ll also need to ask for extra copies of the death certificate to settle other affairs such as bank accounts. You’ll need to pay for the first and any additional copies of this certificate.

The Funeral Director is your friend

You might not have met before, but your Funeral Director is the expert who can advise you about all aspects of the funeral and burial. If you don’t feel comfortable about going to their office, most will be happy to come and see you at home, or speak by phone, which feel more relaxed.

At your first meeting, there will be lots of questions. Take your time and don’t feel under pressure to agree to anything you’re not happy about. There shouldn’t be any pressure, for example, about choosing the coffin, car or flowers. And if you at anytime feel that the Funeral Director you have chosen is not suitable for your needs, or they aren’t listening to what you want, you have the option to choose a different one. You are well within your rights to do this. This relationship, although a short one, is going to be important over the next few weeks.

If your loved one hasn’t left any directions, you’ll need to make the decisions about whether you want a funeral service and, if you do, where it will be held. The Funeral Director will also discuss whether the body is to be embalmed, ask where your loved one is to be buried (this may also affect the type of coffin that’s permitted), and whether you’ve thought about what might be placed on top of the coffin. And you’ll also need to discuss what clothes you’d like your loved one to be buried in and whether any personal items are to be buried with them (again, the type of burial site may affect which items can be included).

The funeral service

You might already have a good idea of whether you’re going to have a service and, if so, where it will be, who will lead it and who should deliver the eulogy. Or you may not. You’ll need to find time to discuss these details with family or friends and work with your Funeral Director to create an Order of Service. Don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to deliver a eulogy if you’re a close relative or friend of the person who has died. It’s one of the most challenging tasks you could take on at such an emotional time. If you are not used to public speaking and prefer not to deliver this your friends and family will understand.

Sometimes, a person’s religious faith affects how soon after death the funeral needs to take place. But in many cases, funerals take place over a week afterwards, to give people who may live further away time to plan their travel.

Funeral services are usually held before the body is buried, while memorial services can be arranged a while later. In some service halls, the ceremony can be recorded and live-streamed to mourners who aren’t able to attend. And some people choose a graveside service at the burial site instead of a service hall.

Covid-19 restrictions

Currently, there are some restrictions that affect funeral arrangements. Your Funeral Director will be able to advise you about the latest rules. Alternatively you can visit website for the most recent updates.

Choosing a burial plot

If your loved one hasn’t left a note of their wishes, you’ll need to consider not only where they should be buried, but any restrictions that apply to the cemetery, including the type of coffin that can be used. In a traditional graveyard, you can choose pretty much any type of coffin or casket (including metal caskets) you wish, and the site can be marked with a headstone, mausoleum or burial vault.

Nowadays, many people are choosing more environmentally friendly burials, and these come with some restrictions. In most sites, a simple shroud can be used instead of a coffin and there are some restrictions on the type of coffin that can be used. For example, in a natural burial site, the coffin should be made of biodegradable materials, without metal handles, and there should be no other materials in the coffin that don’t break down naturally. Some woodland burial sites, such as GreenAcres parks, have slightly different/flexible criteria that allow any type of coffin with the exception of zinc lined and metal caskets in their woodland. However, their parklands do allow metal caskets to be interred, but your Funeral Director and the cemetery will be able to advise you about these.

Finding the right way to remember

Modern cemeteries are designed to be a place for the living. That means they’re spaces where people want to meet, spend time, walk and reflect on a loved one.

Many private cemeteries offer a choice of burial site so that traditional areas can accommodate a headstone or mausoleum, whereas woodland areas might have more discreet memorials, simple wooden posts or ‘living memorials’ such as trees that will outlast those who chose them. Or there’s the option of having an unmarked grave that, over time, becomes an integral part of the surrounding natural environment.

In a contemporary burial site like GreenAcres, it’s really up to you. You can consider an oak memorial post or memorial plaque or even a ‘living memorial’ like a tree or a natural habitat for wildlife such as a bird box.

Staying together

Sometimes a couple wish to stay together not only in life but also after they’ve died. Finding a private garden or a woodland glade where your loved one can be buried, but that also leaves space for a partner to follow, is a popular choice.

Marked burial plots, with double-depth graves, at GreenAcres mean that a second person can be laid to rest with their loved one in the future.

In some areas of GreenAcres parks, there is also an option to reserve several spaces in private gardens and woodland glades, meaning families and friends can be buried close together.

How can you safeguard a burial plot for the future?

Some organisations give you the option of buying a long lease on a burial plot. This means it’s protected for future generations, who won’t have to bear the financial burden of renewing the lease or the guilt if they don’t. Private cemeteries like GreenAcres offer the flexibility of choosing from a variety of lease periods from 25 years to the life of the park.

What makes modern burials different?

For a growing number of people, the focus is on sustainability, biodiversity, quality of service and choice.

At GreenAcres, you can choose a burial plot in one of the six beautiful parks, located in different parts of the country. Depending on which of the parks you select, there’s a choice of woodland, meadows and lawns within acres of protected parkland.

Where can I go for more information?

Funeral Guide gives you step-by-step information on what to do when someone dies.

Tell Us Once is a service that enables you to report a death to most government organisations in one go.

Find out more about organising a burial at GreenAcres.

How to organise a cremation for your loved one

This blog offers a step-by-step guide to organising a cremation and cremation service.

There are many reasons why people are opting for cremation – the higher cost of burial is probably one of these. However, respect for, and the honouring of, the religious belief of their loved one is another important consideration. Members of some faith groups choose burial because that aligns with their faith (Jews and followers of Islam are examples). Others look to cremation – particularly Hindus and Sikhs, as well as those Buddhists who choose to follow the example of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama).

Another factor is that cremation offers families many more options to memorialise their loved one, so what follows can become a deeply personal experience. For some people, the act of scattering ashes, for example, gives them a sense that their loved one is all around them or looking down and continuing to admire the place chosen for them. Or they might choose to place the ashes in a beautiful urn at home.

Not all crematoria and cemeteries allow ash scattering. However, scattering is possible in designated areas at any GreenAcres park. Generally though, there is nothing in UK law to stop you scattering ashes in a place that was special to your loved one, or over water (including rivers), but you do need the landowner’s permission. And if you’re planning to scatter ashes on ‘controlled waters’ you should consult the Environment Agency’s recommendations. But, before any cremation, there are some legal steps to follow:

The four legal steps

Step 1 is only likely to involve you, a family member or a friend/neighbour if your loved one has died at home. In a hospital or care home, Step 1 will be carried out by staff so you won’t need to get involved.

Step 1 – Verification of death

Verification of death is the process of identifying that a person has died. It has nothing to do with providing a death certificate or identifying the cause of death.
English Law allows any competent adult, either independently or with remote support from a doctor, to verify that someone has died. It doesn’t need to be done by a doctor.
The British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) have produced a collaborative process (protocol) that can be followed by anyone present to verify death if they feel able to do so.
If you find yourself having to verify a death, either call your GP who will support you over the phone, or follow the guidelines in the protocol above.

Step 2 – Certification of death

After a death has been verified, a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) must
be completed and submitted to the local registrar of births, marriages and deaths by a (GMC registered and licensed) doctor. You don’t need to be involved in this step, and there’s nothing to pay.
If the doctor cannot offer a likely cause of death, the case must be submitted to the coroner to establish a cause of death.
Now, because of Covid-19 and the Coronavirus Act 2020, for a doctor to complete an MCCD without referral to the coroner, they must have seen (including via video link) the patient in the 28 days before death, or in person after death. If these conditions are met, the MCCD will be completed by the doctor and sent (by email) to the registrar who will record the death and complete the paperwork to allow burial or cremation.

Step 3 – Registration of death

The person registering the death is formally known as ‘the informant’. Only relatives or specific individuals are qualified by law to register a death. Other people include:

  • The occupier of the house or an official from the public building where the death occurred
  • Someone present at the death
  • The person making the arrangements with the Funeral Director

The informant must register the death within five days in England, Wales or Northern Ireland and within eight days in Scotland.

However, if there’s a Coroner’s inquest (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland), registration is delayed until the inquest has been completed.
Depending on which country the deceased person lived in, the informant must register the death:

  • In England and Wales at the Register Office
  • In Northern Ireland at the District Registration Office
  • In Scotland at the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • Registering a death is free, but you will need to pay for copies of the death certificate in order to deal with their estate. We suggest you get multiple copies of the certificate. This means you can deal with several organisations at the same time instead of having to wait for your only copy to be returned by one organisation (say the bank) before you can deal with the next one.

Step 4 – Cremation certificate

The Coronavirus Act 2020 changed the requirements of the cremation process. During the COVID-19 emergency, Form Cremation 4 is now the only form that needs to be completed. This form must be completed by a registered doctor and sent to the relevant crematorium. (The standard requirement for sending form Cremation 5 as well has been suspended.) Cremation 4 will then be checked by the crematorium medical referee to ensure it complies with guidance. Referees have the right (and a duty) to raise questions to ensure the safety of the system. When you have completed the formalities, and the death has been registered, you can then think about the cremation and cremation service.

You may also find the Tell Us Once service available through GOV.UK particularly useful. It lets you report a death to most government organisations in one go. In Northern Ireland, you’ll need to visit Who to tell about a death.

If you would prefer to use a Funeral Director, then the Good Funeral Guide is an excellent place to start your search.

Options for a cremation service

After the cremation, you might be thinking about how you’ll mark the place where your loved one’s ashes have been scattered or interred. At Greenacres, our parks are open to anyone of any faith or none looking for the perfect place to remember and reflect on the life of a loved one.

Ways to remember and celebrate a life; sharing and cherishing your memories

Thanks for the memory
Of Schubert’s Serenade
Little things of jade
And traffic jams
And anagrams
And bills we never paid…
(From ‘Thanks for the memory’. Lyrics by Leo Robin)

The first memorial most of us create to someone we have loved is a funeral service. This gives us an opportunity to share memories, as well as photos, and to talk about the person who has died. However, it can be difficult to plan this, often at short notice, so it does justice to the memory of a loved one in the time allowed. Some venues offer more flexible options, for example, longer services to accommodate your requirements.

Recent Covid-19 restrictions, that limit the number of mourners who can attend a funeral, have made it more challenging at some venues to plan the funeral or memorial service you wanted. Venues such as GreenAcres parks can incorporate live-streaming or recording of services so you can share them with many more people.

Of course, there are other ways – both traditional and less conventional – to remember your loved one and celebrate their life. You don’t need to involve a funeral director if you’re organising a memorial service after a burial or cremation, or to commemorate the life of the person you loved in the way you wish. This can normally be arranged directly with the venue.

While many people choose to arrange for a traditional, permanent memorial, such as a headstone or mausoleum, others choose to scatter their loved one’s ashes in a place the person enjoyed visiting, perhaps a special spot in the countryside or at sea.

Living memorials

With increasing awareness of our impact on the environment, living memorials such as planting a native tree offer a ‘greener’ way to commemorate a loved one, as well as providing habitats for a range of wildlife. Parks, such as GreenAcres, have a range of native trees selected by the Grounds Team that a family can choose from. Or you can plant a biodegradable urn that, along with the surrounding soil, nurtures a tree or wildflowers with your loved one’s ashes.

Woodland memorials

Within burial parks and woodland cemeteries, like GreenAcres, you have the option of creating a memorial that’s also a natural habitat for birds, bees, owls, butterflies or bats. And at GreenAcres Parks, you can choose to commemorate your loved one in beautiful surroundings, regardless of whether or not they have been laid to rest at one of our parks.

It’s traditional for graves in natural environments to be marked with a simple oak plaque, with an inscription of your choice. You can also place a memorial bench or other memorial in some burial parklands, along with an engraved plaque to your loved one.

Personal keepsakes

Personal keepsakes are designed to hold a small quantity of ashes. The wonderful thing about them is they can provide the opportunity for every member of the family to retain a treasured memory of their own should they so wish.

Keeping your loved one close

Some people achieve a feeling of having their loved one close to them by keeping some ashes in a cuddly toy. And there’s an increasingly popular trend, mixing ashes with body ink to create a permanent tattoo, to keep someone you love permanently close to your body. Ashes can also be incorporated into memorial jewellery or ornaments, a popular way of feeling near to someone you have lost.

Reaching for the skies

Families are increasingly looking for more original and personalised ways to remember someone, such as scattering their ashes during a tandem skydive, creating a vinyl record that contains compressed ashes, or saying goodbye via a professional memorial firework containing cremated ashes.

Burying ashes at home

Some people bury all or some of the ashes in their garden, although it’s worth considering what might happen if you move to a new home in the future, which might make it difficult to visit your loved one’s resting place.

Planning your own memorial

While it might seem strange to consider how you’d like to be remembered after your death, planning ahead can give you peace of mind. It can also help your family at a difficult time, by knowing they’re doing what you’d have wanted.

If you haven’t already thought about whether you’d want to be buried or cremated, and where you wish to be laid to rest, visiting a contemporary cemetery such as GreenAcres can help you to make some of those difficult decisions. You’re welcome to arrange a tour and talk things through with a member of the team.

GreenAcres parks provide a beautiful setting for your final resting place with many opportunities to represent the way you wish to be remembered for years to come.

And, unlike many other cemeteries, when you purchase a plot in any of the parks (whether for a Full Burial or an Ash Interment), you can choose the place you want to be buried from a variety of beautiful settings. You can also select the type of funeral or memorial service you want.