I dedicate this to each and every mother who lives without her precious child(ren), to every mother who has no living children, and to every woman who longs to be a mother. We see you. We remember you. And we honor your motherhood. You are a beautiful, beautiful mother.
Mother's Day can be a wonderful day for many women. A day of celebration, honor and love. But for those of us who are mothers of children gone too soon, Mother's Day is often filled with dread, sorrow and insatiable longing. It's marked by a visceral ache that spills from our heart to the depths of our bones. It's punctuated by an ever-present hole in our hearts, in our lives, so deep and wide, that no one and nothing can fill it.
Our arms are empty, yet we long for them to be full. We are mothers, but the world often forgets- especially if we no longer have living children to carry and hold outside our hearts.
It's hard being a bereaved mother on Mother's Day, being a mother to a child who is no longer living.
. . .
As bereaved mothers, our deepest cry and longing is for our motherhood to be honored and recognized. For all our children, in heaven or on earth, to be remembered. Honored. Celebrated. For someone to yell from the rooftops, or to quietly whisper in the silence: Yes, you are still a mother!!!
You'd think this would be a simple request, something that would surely happen. You'd think anyone and everyone would give us this gift. But year after year, on this seemingly special day, bereaved mothers feel left out. We're left out of the pastors' sermons at church. Left out of the montage of flowers and chocolate and Mother's Day well-wishes. Left out of the conversations and celebrations of motherhood. Left out of the "Happy Mothers' Day" messages that flood social media.
And we bleed.
. . .
It's hard being a bereaved mother on Mother's Day, being a mother to a child who is no longer living. By hard, I mean torturous, and even that word falls short.
You want your child recognized by name, validated as a real person who lived. You want someone to step in and offer to carry a piece of your pain for just a minute, an hour, a day- especially on this day. This day that is supposed to honor and celebrate all mothers. You want a shining soul to see you, to truly get it, (for even just one second.) You want a brave and daring heart to compassionately climb in the ditch with you, lie down beside you, and just be with you, smack in the middle of your whirlpool of Mother's Day tears.
The sad truth?
There are few who can do this. And even fewer who will.
We know on Mother's Day people will forget how to count. All our children. (In my case that only means counting up to three.)
. . .
I remember my first Mother's Day after the death of my only son like it was yesterday. Every cell in my body was dreading the day. The mere thought of Mother's Day filled me with palpable anxiety from the tips of my hair all the way down to my toes.
You see, as loss moms we know and anticipate that the world will forget us. We know. We know because it happens all day, every day in our post-loss life. Our motherhood denied. Ignored. Stomped on. Crushed. Not recognized, honored or even simply stated. We know on Mother's Day people will forget how to count. All our children. (In my case that only means counting up to three.) We know our children gone too soon will no longer be included in the routine 'how-many-kids-do-you-have' count. We know the gaping hole in our family tree will go unnoticed. We know the most important names will be missing from our Mother's Day cards. We know it's going to happen. Our children, forgotten- their existence, denied.
And yet? No amount of preparing prepares the broken heart for the excruciating pain of more salt poured in its wounds. Even if it is with the best of intentions.
. . .
Knowing our motherhood and our children won't be recognized does not make it one ounce more bearable. At all. In fact, it makes the anticipation of, and the day itself, filled with dread.
The thought of "celebrating" Mother's Day feels impossible. Surviving it is generally the goal. And even that feels like a lofty one. The Mother's Day landmines are too many to count.
For some, staying in bed with the covers overhead until the day passes is the most reasonable solution.
Having your motherhood ignored on a daily basis is torture; but on Mother's Day, the one day of the year all mothers should be celebrated, honored and recognized? There aren't words for the ache, for the pain of being forgotten, for the dread of knowing you will be.
. . .
All I wanted my first Mother's Day after the death of my son, was simple: for someone to remember him, for someone to remember I was a Mother, with a capital-M. To have both my motherhood and my son acknowledged was the only gift I wanted and needed that year. For anyone to kindly say, "Yes, you are still a mother." For someone to say, "I see you. I love you. You are an amazing mother to your precious son."
Unfortunately, most people didn't remember that year. Most people didn't remember I ever had a son. Even though it had only been a few short months since he had walked the earth beside me. Most people forgot I was ever a mother, and still a mother, on a day that ironically was in fact founded by bereaved mothers themselves.
The world's message to me was loud and clear: "No, you are not still a mother."
You will always be your precious child's mother. Always. Even though heaven and earth separate you, even if no one remembers, even if the world tells you you're not.
. . .
That year I received one Mother's Day card.
It came from someone I didn't even know well, but let me tell you, that card made my year. It made my life. It made breathing a little easier, a little lighter, every hour of that wretched day, and every day for the rest of that year. Inside the fibers of that paper held hope.
I still have that card. And I will always keep it. That one acquaintance decided to step out in bravery and in love to acknowledge what no one else could or would: not only was I still a mother, but I always would be. Always.
It was a message my heart longed for and desperately needed to hear. One I clung to and cling to still.
That $3.99 Mother's Day card became my lifeline.
It gilded the cracks of my heart with love. With honor. With pride. To be acknowledged as the mother of my precious son still- and always- was the gift of all gifts.
Someone finally saw me, all of me, and my broken open heart will never, ever forget it.
. . .
To every courageous loss mama, with an aching heart and empty arms, I leave you with this: Yes, you are a still a mother, and you always, always will be. The love you two share is forever, just as your motherhood is forever. No one can take that away from you. Not today, not on Mother's Day, not ever. You will always be your precious child's mother. Always. Even though heaven and earth separate you, even if no one remembers, even if the world tells you you're not.
. . .
Angela Miller is the author of You Are the Mother of All Mothers: A Message of Hope for the Grieving Heart, which has comforted almost 10,000 grieving moms worldwide. Follow Angela at A Bed For My Heart.
This piece was originally published at A Bed For My Heart.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.