May also brings one of the most bittersweet days of the year for bereaved mothers everywhere. Mother's Day. I can already feel the anticipatory grief building and it's still 10 days away.
As a mom, I, of course, always looked forward to Mother's Day. When my children were young, I loved the crafts they made in school and the dandelions they picked just for me. I loved celebrating my children, my motherhood, and reflected on how blessed I was to have three beautiful children, two of them twins. We had such fun...
Then, suddenly, one was gone. After Meg died, Mother's day was no longer a day I looked forward to. It is a day I dreaded. A day all about being a mom. A day when I am harshly reminded that I failed at the most basic level of my role as mother. I failed to keep my child alive. The guilt is like a slap in the face on this day more than any other. Where there used to be three children to spend Mother's Day with, there were only two. Except it wasn't just Mother's Day. It was forever.
The first few years I noticed I got very irritable and depressed as Mother's day drew closer. The very first year I didn't even realize why or that was how I was behaving. On the day itself, I woke early and went to the cemetery. THE CEMETERY. No mother should have to spend any part of Mother's day at the cemetery! There I cried. I wrote. I even lay upon her grave while sobbing. I hated the day and just wanted it to end. I wanted to run away. I wanted to pull the covers over my head and hide. I wanted to be alone. I just couldn't deal. I tried to enjoy what my boys did for me and to spend quality time with them, but it was so hard. To look at them and know she was missing, it was almost unbearable, more so on this day than any other, since it was all about being a mom, thus all about my children. Why? How? How could I even consider myself a "good" mother when one of my children had died? No, don't celebrate me. I don't deserve it. That was the undercurrent of what I felt, though I never expressed it at the time.
As the years passed, I noticed the anticipation of Mother's Day was almost worse than the day itself. Knowing it's a trigger day, knowing it's a difficult day for me, the waiting for it to come, and thus, be over, is worse than the actual day itself most of the time now. In 2009, 5 years after Meg died, I was at the cemetery on Mother's day morning, alone, as I always do. I sat in front of her stone and had a tearful conversation with her. For some reason, I felt compelled to look to my right, skyward. I saw this:
I've gotten heart clouds as a sign ever since she died, and now I also very often see hearts in nature in every way, in addition to frequent hearts in the sky. This one was one of the biggest, most obvious, and most special ones I've ever seen.
Now, ten years have passed. Ten Mother's Days without my little girl. I'd like to say they are easier, but I'm not sure they are. They are different. I guess I've learned what to expect and how I best cope with the grief I feel a bit more strongly on this day. Don't get me wrong, I still dread the day. I still shed tears. I still want it to be over long before it is here. I am still starkly reminded of my essential failure as a mother (please know despite my guilt, I have processed and accepted it, yet still can't help how I feel) this day more than any other, but I try to focus on the fact I am still her mother.
I am still the mother of three. On Mother's day, I have a wonderful opportunity to educate others that we bereaved parents are still parents to our angel babies. Just because our children no longer walk on earth with us does not mean we are not their mommas. They are still our children. We can still mother them through our memories, the sharing of their name, their story, their personality, their energy. We can maintain a relationship with them through reminiscing, prayer or communication with them in whatever way resonates with us. We remember them. Every day. On this day, like every other, I live between two worlds. The earthly world where we are having our human experience, and the spiritual world, where I maintain a connection and a relationship with my daughter and other deceased loved ones. It's a beautiful thing, but not unlike a tightrope at times. I'm never sure if the net will hold me when I fall (emotionally).
If you are a bereaved mom, know that this may be a difficult day for you. Honor your feelings and know whatever you feel is okay. Let others know it's a difficult day for you and why. Let them know what you do and do not want to do to celebrate your motherhood and your relationship with your children, alive or deceased. If your family wants to take you out from brunch, but the thought of having to be 'on' and social in an environment where there are lots of people and you feel like you have to 'hold it together' when all you want to do is cry or run out the door, let them know you'd rather do something else. Or maybe, do nothing at all. It is your day after all, do what you feel you need to do to cope and to heal.
As a bereaved mom, how do you plan to spend your Mother's day? Do you have any traditions or rituals that you have created to remember your child on this day?
If you know a bereaved mom, know that Mother's Day is one of the hardest days of the year for her, no matter how long her child has been gone or how old they were when they died. Let her know you are thinking of her and her child (say their name to her). Let her know you are sensitive to the fact this day is probably a difficult one for her. Offer to be there for her. Perhaps send a card, email, or post a heartfelt message on Facebook and raise the grief I.Q. of her friends, too! Maybe bring her flowers or gift her something with her child's photo or name to honor the mother and child relationship, a keepsake she can treasure. Share a memory you have of her and her child with her. Tell her you love her.
Please always remember, one a momma, always a momma. Love never dies...