Mother’s Day Reflections from a Widowed Dad

I remember the first Mother’s Day without my son John’s mom among us. He was eight at the time and we had been getting counseling over his mother’s condition for about a year. I got some greeting cards and phone calls on the holiday, which caught me off guard. I hadn’t really thought about Mother’s Day much–I guess because I was the mom and the dad (along with other roles).  

This year will be our sixth Mother’s Day without her, and while we celebrate her birthday, I try to downplay the time of year that she died, along with other holidays like this one. As the years pass, the impact for us does become easier. While it still feels like she is with us, my son said, for better and worse, that he thinks of mommy less and less.  

The journey isn’t easy. I do the best I can.  

I credit his time at Experience Camps with helping him along the path of life—one that now doesn’t have his mother holding his hand. John learned that we can’t live in the past, but we can smile at the good thoughts and memories that pop up, and try to move past the less-than-pleasant memories. 


Author of post Rick Warmbold with his son John.


Advice for other widowers

As I reflect more on what might help other widowed dads on Mother’s Day, I am struggling to come up with advice. Family, friends, colleagues, and even distant acquaintances reach out to me to ask me things like this, and what they should do when someone they know has a child impacted by the death of a parent or someone close to them. They expect me to know what to do, say, and help guide them. 

Honestly I try to shy away from giving advice. Just because I went through it doesn’t make me an expert. Plus, I don’t know the details surrounding the death on their end so who am I to help them through this holiday or grief in general? I do always mention the Experience Camps resources there to help.

I can say–and it may seem obvious–but you cannot replace a person’s mother. There have been women in my life who wanted to step into that role. I’ve even had a few women that I had romantic relationships with whom I wanted to step into that role. Nobody can do that. That said, my son is surrounded with love, and as I type this, I have a woman in my life that is nurturing but very sensitive to not try and become more than that to John. We will see how this plays out.

Lastly, I can offer this: When it comes to celebrating Mother’s Day this year–or navigating grief in general–go with your gut. Do what is best for you, think of what your child might need and want (which will change over the years and sometimes even over the hours). At the end of the day, focus on the positives in your life and be sure to start the next day focused on those positives. Try to do the right thing each and every day. That is enough, that is plenty.

“Whiskey” Rick Warmbold spent over 30 years in the Marine Corps and is now living in the Florida Keys with his man cub who starts High School this fall. Giving tours, being active in the community, and trying to enjoy life in crazy times is his focus now while raising a teenager.