We are approaching Mother’s Day, when all over the country, people celebrate the glories of motherhood and tout the ideals of the role. However, for vast numbers of your clients, Mother’s Day holds mixed emotions at best, or even outright anguish. You do the right thing for your clients and extend your services beyond just the financial realm when you recognize and address these difficult situations.
The reasons vary: The client’s mother died, and this is the first or second Mother’s Day without her. Perhaps your client has been unable to have biological children or her child has died, and the day is a painful reminder that she will never have what so many other people take for granted. Maybe your client’s mother or child is seriously or terminally ill, leaving her with the recognition that this may be her last Mother’s Day alive. Mother’s Day can also surface memories of a dysfunctional childhood spent in the shadow of an abusive, alcoholic or absent parent. Or if the client has been widowed, whether husband or wife, it’s hard to face that holiday alone.
To the extent possible, as Mother’s Day approaches, be aware of the less-than-happy situations your clients may face and decide to reach out the week before the holiday in compassionate ways.
It could be as simple as sending a card with a handwritten note that says: “Mother’s Day never holds unbridled joy and pride after a child dies. I hope that on Sunday you will be able to remember Abby with smiles even as you miss her with tears. Your daughter is forever in your heart and ours, too.”
Perhaps you can call a client and saying something like, “It is often intensely painful on the first Mother’s Day after your mom dies. I was thinking about you being in that situation now, and I just wanted to check in and see what it’s like for you. What do you have planned? How will you acknowledge her absence and with whom will you mark the day?”
Or “It has to be difficult to know that this Mother’s Day is likely to be the last one you celebrate with your Mom. What is it like for you and your family as you approach the day?”
Or “I’ve been thinking about you so much this week, because I know this will be the first Mother’s Day you’ve spent without your spouse in 52 years. I called to tell you I care, and to ask what you have planned for that day. How will you spend the day and get the support you need to get through it?”
Open the door in these ways, and then just listen, asking more questions based on what they say. Avoid telling them what to think or feel. Just be the companion to them and offer your support.
You’ll probably find that most people are surprised to get a call like this, and some are a bit taken aback at first. Yet after a moment of hesitation, clients begin to talk about their mothers, spouses or children, relating stories and memories. Some will laugh; some will cry; some will do both. You can expect that gratitude for your call or card will be almost, if not entirely, unanimous, and your clients will go into Mother’s Day with a little more peace and joy.
Can you do that for your clients? Recognize their losses, name the reality, and invite the story. On occasion, someone will not wish to talk, and as always you follow the clients’ lead. In the vast majority of cases, though, you provide a genuine service, help clients heal and build the kind of loyalty and trust that lasts a lifetime.
Amy Florian is the CEO of Corgenius, combining neuroscience and psychology to train financial professions in how to build strong relationships with clients through all the losses and transitions of life.