For all you mothers out there, you look forward to a day like Mother’s Day because you know that you can put your feet up and enjoy all the well-deserved attention from the kids and your significant other. It’s also a day to just simply celebrate the joy that is motherhood where you can fulfill all those motherly feelings that you have developed over the years.
What happens, though, when that role of mother takes an untimely turn and you must deal with the loss of a child? While grief for every type of loss is difficult and unbearable at times, losing a child can seem like it is impossible to ever get past. After all, as the parent, you are supposed to go before your children – they are your heritage and a way to keep your name and memory living on. You are also at a loss with what to do with all the motherly feelings you have in terms of caring for others and filling that role as Mom.
No matter when it occurred, the loss of a child can consume you in sadness, but it tends to hit even harder on special days like holidays, their birthday, and days like Mother’s Day when you think about how they would have been doing something with you on that day or would have made you something with their hands and heart.
Here are some tips for handling that grief in the wake of a celebration on Mother’s Day that your other children or family members want to hold:
- Don’t feel guilty celebrating Mother’s Day. As a mother, you most likely feel that you did not do enough to protect your child from whatever led to their death. Mothers are programmed to have that innate need to protect their young, so when you have feelings that you failed it may be difficult to want to celebrate something like Mother’s Day. It’s easy to tell you to not feel guilty more than it is to not feel guilty, but it is important to remind yourself that you did what you could and cannot control many things in life. What you can do is celebrate even being able to have the honor and experience to be a mother to someone. It’s a special role that everyone respects you for taking on.
- Cherish those who are still with you. If you have other children, this is the time to become even closer with them and cherish every minute you have with them. Make every moment special, including a celebration of Mother’s Day. And, if you don’t have any other children, draw close to your spouse and other family members during this time. Maybe your child was older and left behind a spouse and children, so this is also an opportunity to pour your affection into them. Those bonds are some of the best medicine you can treat yourself with when dealing with any sense of loss. They want to tell you how much they appreciate you as a mom.
- Lean on those around you. Let yourself need and ask for help from others. So many mothers forget how to reach out because they are always the ones doing for everyone else. This is a point in time where others want to help in any way they can, including being a listening ear or taking some of the work off your shoulders. Let them – and, if not them, it’s okay to talk to someone outside the family that may be an objective and safe place to talk about your grief. If you’re struggling with other areas such as an addiction during this time, there are also help centers that can help with that. In and around days like Mother’s Day is a critical time where you may need more support than you thought so keep communication lines open to reach out.
- Use the day to reminisce about those special moments you shared. When you are ready, you can look at Mother’s Day as a remembrance day for the child who is no longer with you. This can involve looking at photos or videos of happy times you shared as well tell others stories about the best times together. These are also ways to heal while celebrating the positive aspects of having that person in your life albeit limited.
- Find other places to put your mom skills to work. So many people don’t get to have loving mothers for one reason or another, so you might consider taking those skills and innate ability and putting toward someone that could use that affection and mentoring. Depending on what you and your family feel comfortable with, you might consider foster parenting, adoption, or volunteer work with children. While this may not be how you want to personally deal with your grief right now, it might be something for the future when you feel like you could add something to those in need. When you have so much love to give, this might be a good way to reconcile your feelings of loss.
Grief will hit you even when it’s not Mother’s Day and you may not be expecting how, when, and how hard it hits you when it’s the loss of a child. Consider these strategies for beyond Mother’s Day because you don’t want your grief to consume you and take you away from a life that is still more than likely rich in many ways.