I discovered I was pregnant with my first child the Friday before Mother’s day in 2000. Larry and I were elated but cautious in wanting to share the news too soon. So that year as we gathered to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and the rest of the family, I secretly relished the fact that I was going to be a mom.
Being a mother changes your life forever. Your life is no longer just your own. You now have another person’s well-being, happiness, growth and love intertwined with yours. Your child laughs, you laugh. If your child cries, you cry. If your child succeeds, a part of you succeeds with them. If there are failures along the way, you want to reach out and help.
The bond I have with each of my children is unique and like no other I have ever felt.
As much as I love being a mom, I’ll admit it’s the toughest job I’ve ever had! There’s no time clock to punch, no time off when you’re sick and there’s no such thing as over-time pay (or any pay for that matter!) It’s a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job!
Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
And when Mother’s Day rolls around each year, I stand tall and proud: I’m a mom! It’s a day for reflection and celebration.
But what happens to that day if you’ve experienced the tragic loss of a child?
How do you acknowledge the occasion?
While I’ve shared my grief over the loss of my husband, the anguish that ensues when a parent has lost a child is beyond my comprehension.
No matter the age your son or daughter may have been when he or she passed away, he or she will forever be your child.
Over the years I have been humbled to know and meet parents who faced this most tragic event of their life.
As I write this post I won’t even try to imagine the pain that a parent suffers with this loss. To do so would be presumptuous on my part.
But I can address healing from the point of view of someone who has experienced profound grief. And part of healing entails learning how to live each day without your loved one, even on the “special” days.
When I attended New Song Center for Grieving Children, sadly there were many parents present who had lost a child. They were there to support their living children/grandchildren who had lost a sibling/parent and also to get support for themselves. Even in my own grief, I had nothing but the upmost respect for the courage and strength I saw in each mother and father as they shared their grief with the group.
As you know, every day can be a struggle. But some days will be more difficult than others, like the holidays. When such days approached, each of us in our group shared our plans for the day, and what I took most from this exercise is that there is no right or wrong way to get through a difficult day.
So what do you do on Mother’s Day if your child is no longer with you?
Frankly, whatever you darn well feel like!
There are no rules!
Mother’s Day is Sunday. If you are a mother or grandmother who has lost a child or grandchild, or you have children whose mother passed away, you may be having mixed feelings about how you want to spend the day. So while there are no rules, I will share some options I know others have followed.
For children who have lost a mother:
* Involve the children, let them help you plan the day.
* They can write a letter or draw a picture for their mom.
* Is there a place of remembrance they would like to visit?
* Are there any other female figures they would like to recognize on this day? A grandmother, aunt or close friend?
For mothers who have lost a child:
* Consider ahead of time how you want to spend the day.
* Communicate your thoughts to others.
* Is there something special you would like to do to on this day to commemorate your child?
* Can you think of a way to recognize your other children, if you have any?
For grandmothers who have lost a grandchild:
You’re enduring the pain of watching your adult daughter grieve for your grandchild while you yourself are also grieving. Because you love your child (who is no longer a child), you will do what most mothers do and give the biggest gift of all: your love, understanding and patience.
Please be patient and understand that your grieving daughter may not want to recognize this day, or may choose to do so alone with her own children. Understand that your grieving daughter may “forget” to say “Happy Mother’s Day” or even “I love you, mom.”
The biggest gift you give– your unconditional love– will be returned to you tenfold because of your patience and understanding.
Mother’s Day may never be the same, but I truly believe…
Once a mother, always a mother.
However you decide to spend Mother’s Day this year, it’s completely up to you.
I also want to take a moment to recognize that if you’re a mother whose child has passed away, your feelings of grief the days prior to Mother’s Day may very well escalate to levels you may or may not have experienced, regardless of how long it’s been.
While I’ve mentioned New Song in this post and previous posts, I want to offer another means of support.
The Compassionate Friends provides support to families experiencing the death of a son or daughter. They have local chapters and provide online support. Below is their website and I encourage you to have a look to see if there’s something they have that will support you not only on Mother’s Day, but on every day.
I pray this Mother’s Day you find some peace in your heart and remember to take some time for yourself.
P.S. To all the moms out there, I wish you a very happy Mother’s Day. I am grateful every day that I have my three boys. I hope they never get too old for big hugs!