Grief is very personal and facing any occasion that invites us to celebrate can make the day more challenging, especially if the person we want to celebrate with is no longer with us.
Every year we celebrate the amazing role of parenthood and the relationship between a parent and child through Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Despite the celebratory nature of these days, many of us will find them painful or difficult to honour due to grief.
As a parent, it is only natural to feel that we will always be there for our children and nothing can prepare us for the death of a child. As children grow into adulthood, our relationship with them may change and develop, but the role of a parent lasts a lifetime. Approaching Mother’s Day following the death of an adult child can act as a painful reminder of the relationship you no longer have.
Although Mother’s Day celebrates mothers all around the world, there are many women who may feel that they cannot honour the day. No matter how old your child is, your instinct to protect and nurture them remains the same and their death may leave you feeling bereft of your identity as a mother. Days like Mother’s and Father’s Day can therefore be a reminder, not just of the loss of your adult child, but also of this lost identity and the future you had together.
Many people do not know that the traditional Mother’s Day, founded in the early 1900s in America, was created in honour of a bereaved mother. Anna Jarvis founded the day to honour her mother, Ann, who lost seven of her babies.
The creation of this day to honour the grief and loss of mothers has been eclipsed over time and one woman sought to change this. In 2010, a few years after the death of her stillborn son, Christian, Carly Marie Dudley founded International Bereaved Mother’s Day to remind people of the true meaning of Mother’s Day. This day falls on the first weekend of May, the week before Mother’s Day is traditionally celebrated in America and many other countries.
International Bereaved Mother’s Day honours all parents who have lost a child and, in particular, honours mothers who have lost children due to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS or any type of pregnancy or infant loss.
Carly believed that Mother’s Day should include all of those who have experienced the loss of a child, as well as those who are unable to conceive. Over the years, International Bereaved Mother’s Day has opened up the conversation for bereaved parents and raised awareness for those who may not have considered the emotional impact of Mother’s Day.
Supporting a bereaved mother this Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day can trigger an overwhelming range of feelings if you are grieving the death of an adult child. Let the mother know that you are there for them and listen to their stories if they wish to share them.
Say the name of their child and ask your friend or family member how they would like to mark the day. You may want to talk to your friend or family member about honouring their child by doing something in their memory on Mother’s Day. This could be planting a flower or tree or commemorating their name on a piece of jewellery or artwork.
Support for you this Mother’s Day
You may be approaching Mother’s Day with a lot of mixed feelings and it is important that you spend the day doing what you want to do. If that means ignoring the day and staying home to comfort yourself, then this is what you need to do. If it means celebrating the day with others, then surround yourself with friends and family. Do whatever feels right to take care of yourself.
You may want to do something special in memory of your child, perhaps writing a letter to them or creating a tribute. You may have a particular place in your house or a favourite spot of theirs that you can visit.
Most importantly, draw on the support network you have around you, whether this is family and friends or an online community who have similar experiences and can guide you through the day.
You may be approaching Mother’s Day this year with the feeling that it isn’t a day for you but Mother’s Day was created to honour all parts of motherhood, and this includes loss and grief.