For those who approach Mother's Day with a sense of dread, we offer this - you are not alone.
We are especially thinking of parents who have lost children. If you have experienced the death of a child - during pregnancy, infancy, or beyond - we are keeping you close to our hearts this Mother's Day.
There are many other reasons to grieve on Mother's Day - the loss of your mother or a mother figure in your life, a turbulent or abusive relationship with your mother or with a child, infertility struggles, and so much else. If you find yourself in one of these situations, our thoughts are with you too.
But today, we want to focus on those who have lost a child. We want to offer you some wishes for strength, compassion, and love.
We wish you strength as you navigate a world full of celebrations focused on mothers and children. We wish you strength as you navigate your own doubts, questions, and grief. We wish you strength in all of the not-knowing that comes with losing a child.
We wish you self-compassion always, especially around holidays that may bring your grief back to the surface - or intensify it in a different way if your grief always feels fresh.
We wish you vulnerability as you share your thoughts and experiences with loved ones, especially during times like this.
We wish you a supportive community, whether that comes in the form of friends and family, other bereaved parents you've met (in person or online), a support group, a compassionate therapist, a faith community, coworkers, or wherever else you find like-minded people who ease your burden and show up for you when you need them to.
We wish you loved ones with empathetic ears and the ability to just listen to what you're going through.
We wish you memories of your beloved little one. From looking at photos to touching keepsakes to plain old reminiscing, we hope you can find some time to spend just remembering your child and keeping them close to your heart.
We wish you the validation that grief doesn't go away over time, and the knowledge that it's ok to be overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, sad, excluded, conflicted,... whatever you're feeling about this holiday, it's ok.
We wish you celebration if that feels right. Celebration of your baby, celebration of your partner (if you have one), celebration of yourself as a person who has gone through something so big and deserves all good things. Celebration and love and joy despite and because of and together with the darkness.
We wish you, parents of children both on this earth and beyond it, the validation that this holiday can be extra difficult. It's ok to be confused, conflicted, angry, at peace, or however you're feeling about how to love ALL your children at the same time on this day set aside for recognizing motherhood.
We wish you permission to do what you need to do. If you need to hide out around Mother's Day, that's ok. If you want to skip any events on that day, that's ok. Do what you need to do to get through it.
We wish you the encouragement of knowing that you are seen. We recognize your struggles, your journeys, your stories. You and your baby are not forgotten.
We wanted to share passages from from Cameron Dunlap in "A Letter to Grieving Mothers on Mother's Day":
Dear grieving mother,
I feel your pain. I know this day looks nothing like it should.
I am aware of how many aspects of your personality have shifted, how much you've suffered, how often you've felt shunned from our death-avoidant society. I will not demand that you count your blessings today, and you don't have to fake a smile.
Today, I hope you do whatever you want, although I realize that what you really want is your child and a "normal" day, ever again. But if a movie piques your interest, please, treat yourself. If junk food sounds okay, eat up. If you want to stay in bed all day, I hope you have cozy blankets and that you allow yourself that quietude. If you break down into a heaving mess on the floor, it's okay. You can't be expected not to. If you don't cry, or if this day seems insignificant, or if you feel numb, that's fine, too.
You might feel left out today. You'll likely sense the blurry line between your motherhood and your otherhood. Maybe today you won't see your baby's gummy grins, or your toddler won't give you an endearingly messy preschool creation with macaroni glued onto it. Maybe your big kid won't bring you breakfast in bed, or your teenager won't sheepishly offer you a card or say "Thanks, Mom." Maybe your collegiate child won't call you, or your adult child won't send you flowers. It's not fair, and I'm so sorry.
Ignore Mother's Day if that would be easier. Run errands, or keep yourself busy with small, achievable tasks around your home. You do not have to answer calls, open your door, or speak. You owe no one an explanation or an apology. If others don't understand, consider them lucky.
Let no one—I repeat, no one—tell you that you should or could feel differently if you would just do this or that. Your grief is not someone else's problem to solve. You're doing the best you can, and you know it. You don't need fixing. You are not a burden, today or any day.
Missing your child and mine,
Another grieving mother
If you need to hear from others who have gone through the loss of a child today, here are some words of encouragement.
"You are enough, just the way you are, grief and all." - Jill
"You are a mother." - Morgan
"You are loved." - Courtney
"You are strong." - Gena
"Your baby is a real baby, no matter how small." - Christy
"When you seem most alone, look around - we are standing with you." - Ashley
"Your baby is forever loved." - Jessica
"You are of worth." - Megan
"Your baby matters." - Gillian
"Your mother heart is beautiful. You are beautiful. Your precious baby will forever be beautiful, as you carry your child in your heart." -Rosalyn
"They will forever be our children regardless of how little time we had with them." - Jamie
"You are not alone in this." - Alexa
"You did nothing wrong." - Kail
"A mother's love never dies." -Skylar
"Every moment of your baby's life, no matter how brief, is a precious treasure." - Amber
"Grief can only be found where love was found first." - Taylor
"You are a survivor." - Brandy
"Be gentle with yourself." - Tracy
"You are a mother and you are remembered." - Kimberlee
"You are not alone. Mothers all over the world are standing with you, willing to hold you up when you feel like you can no longer stand." - Heather
"Your baby matters, and your experience matters." - Stephanie
"It's ok to not be ok." - Stella
"It takes a very special kind of mother to continue to love a child she cannot see or hold." - Monica
"Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat and that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go." - Lindsey
(We aren't sure about the source of these quotes but will update if we are able to find more information.)
If you need some additional support this Mother's Day, here are some online resources: