Being the mother to a baby that has died is hard. Throughout most days of the year, you can take a few hours out of the day where you can attempt to not think about your loss or you are able to feel like a ‘normal’ person. But not on mother’s day. You are forced to recognise that you are a mother with no child. You have all the responsibility of a mother but none of the benefit. Being the mother of a child that has died can be lonely and unrewarding. Generally, mother’s day is a day of celebration but for many it is a day of pain and loss. However, over time, this raw sense of loneliness and pain will fade and you will be able to look at mother’s day as a day to honor your child’s memory and not always to day of anguish.
Although there are thousands of us that walk the same path of baby bereavement, at first, we are all different because of our raw sadness. But over time, the sadness moves from our skin into our bones. It becomes less visible, but no less who we are. It changes into a wisdom; one we’d give up in a heartbeat to have our child back but one that gets us through our harsh reality. We who have lost children understand life’s fragility and beauty. We who have lost children understand that so many things just aren’t important. All that is important is those we love. All that is important is each other. Nothing else.
There is a wonderful Buddhist story about a woman whose son gets sick and dies. She goes to the Buddha to ask him to bring her son back to life; I will, he says, if you bring me some mustard seed from the home of a family that has not known loss. She goes from house to house but can find no family that has not lost someone dear to them. She buries her son and goes to the Buddha and says: I understand now. When we first.lost Rubén, I felt like no one knew the pain we were feeling but with time, you realise that, unfortuneately, you are not alone in your grief. It doesn’t make me miss my son any less, or Mother’s Day any easier. But it helps me make sense of it; loss is part of life. There are no guarantees, ever. Our children, and all those we love, are gifts to us for however long we have them.
It is common knowledge that during difficult periods such as mother’s day, it is important for bereaved mothers to utilise the support from family and friends. Talk to them about how you are feeling and let them know ways in which they can support you – it can be difficult for friends and family to know whether you want to talk about your baby. However, it can be just as important for friends and family to initiate that support. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Acknowledge her identity as a mother: some people don’t acknowledge bereaved mother’s as mothers anymore. Wish her a happy mother’s day, acknowledge you are thinking of her and that you are there if she needs anything. Most bereaved mothers just want people to understand she is still somebody’s mother.
- Celebrate her baby – you may not have met her baby, you may have. Take some time out of your day to go and visit her. Take to her about her child – some women like to take about their babies, some don’t. Try and find out what she prefers and honor that.
- Spend some quality time with her – if for some reason you cannot visit her, send her a message or give her a ring. You don’t have to talk her loss if that is what she prefers, just talk to her.
- Give her a thoughtful gift – there are ton’s of companies, charities or organisations that make mothers day gifts for bereaved mothers. Send her a thoughtful gift to let her know you are thinking of her.
- Ask her how she is doing and listen: a simple ‘how are you ?’ and a shoulder to cry on isn’t a lot to ask for a mother that is grieving on mother’s day.
Today is my first mother’s day without my son and I have found it much more difficult than I thought I would. I felt an overwhelming sense of wanting to do something for my son so my partner Paul and I spent yesterday afternoon throwing away his funeral reefs. The day after his funeral we laid his reefs in my mum’s front garden and the flowers had started to died. To me – it was just another reminder of death – something so beautiful decomposing before my eyes day after day and it made me in a way, miss my son even more. So I was thankful when my mother reminded me that I was doing him an injustice by leaving them there. We pulled all the flowers out and kept the original reefs. This is something I will keep forever. I felt content that I could do something for him. Luckily, I had already told my family that I wanted a mother’s day card a few days after we lost him so I was happy that I didn’t feel left out on the day. I can’t say that I was particularly prepared for the emotional impact it would have when I received it. I have spent the whole day looking at my baby’s photos, smelling his blankets, looking through his scrapbook and talking about him and that has been my comfort. I know he is all around me so I don’t feel lonely but I do miss him more than anything in this world. I have had the support from my family and it has really helped me through my first mother’s day. I don’t anticipate things will get any easier anytime soon but I know they will with time. The pain I feel will never go away – it will lessen, the loss I feel will never ease – it will soften and the love I feel will never fade it will continue to grow because I know a woman never stops being a mother.