For many, the day may be a reminder of a lost loved one or the inability to have a child
Mother’s Day will be here in a few days, so for some reading, it’s a reminder of cards and gifts to purchase. For others, however, no reminder is needed, as this day is an in-her-face reminder of what isn’t, of a gaping hole left by loss and unrealized hopes.
While most of us celebrate, either as children of mothers or as mothers ourselves, Mother’s Day is nothing but a painful Hallmark holiday for those who have lost their mother physically to death, or estrangement due to drugs, alcohol, mental illness, or abandonment; the 1 in 8 women who long to officially claim that “Mommy” title but continue to wait month after month, disappointment after disappointment; the mothers waiting through the ups and downs of the adoption journey, trying not to be too hopeful; the millions of mothers who have lost a child or children.
It is because of knowing so many of these mothers and the out-of-order, unexpected, reality-shattering nature of the loss of a child that I acknowledge these special women this Mother’s Day: those who’ve been forced to bury their babies, their children, too soon. And it’s always too soon to have to say goodbye to your child, no matter their age.
“I can think of no mother more deserving than a Mother that had to give one back.”—Erma Bombeck
More than most other days, Mother’s Day (and for dads, next month’s Father’s Day) can feel very lonely for those who have lost a child. There’s no escaping the reminders: the commercials, the signs in the stores, and all of the social media posts with smiling mothers and their children.
So while Mother’s Day for many is a time of joy and visits with loved ones, the suffering is real for others and statistics tell us that we all know someone for whom this holiday is a day of heartbreak and sorrow. It is important as friends, as family members, as fellow human beings to think of those suffering through this day.
How can we support those mothers who are grieving their children this Mother’s Day?
• Acknowledge that she is a mother, whether she has other living children or not. A mother’s love starts before birth and knows no end.
• Reach out and specifically acknowledge her loss with a phone call, a personal note, a thoughtful card. No need to fear reminding her of her loss as she can’t forget. Unfortunately though, many mothers who have lost a child feel forgotten or overlooked by others.
• Say her child’s name aloud. Her child can no longer hear his/her name spoken but this is a gift to many grieving parents.
• Consider a memorial gift to honor her loss. There are countless possibilities such as handmade comfort stones, poems, photographs, books or journals, coloring books, or a living memorial such as a tree or flowering bush.
• Encourage and support her self-care by offering to go for a walk with her, sending a gift of fruit or other healthy foods, accompanying her to a yoga or meditation class, ordering a massage gift certificate, etc.
We can’t take away a grieving mother’s pain but we can let her know she is seen and not alone.
“A mother is not defined by the number of children you can see but by the love she holds in her heart.”—Francesca Cox
Dawn Schatz is a Mother, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, certified Domestic Violence Specialist, and owner of Appoquinimink Counseling Services, LLC located at Wellbeing on Main in Middletown. She works with adolescents and adults on a wide variety of issues. Dawn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (302) 898-1616.