by Angela Miller
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.
. . .
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 the mother of a dead child on Mother’s Day. 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.
. . .
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.”
. . .
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 an internationally known writer and speaker on grief and loss. She is the best-selling author of You Are the Mother of All Mothers, and the founder and executive director of the award-winning grief organization, A Bed For My Heart. After the death of her son, Angela founded A Bed For My Heart in 2013, and has given people around the world a compassionate and supportive community to express their grief and honor their children. Her article, “7 Things I’ve Learned Since the Loss of My Child,” has been shared over one million times. Angela’s website ABedForMyHeart.com has almost two million visitors per year, and has become a trusted resource for grieving families worldwide. She has been featured in People, Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Blog Talk Radio, Love What Matters, Listen to Your Mother, and more. Angela’s writing has comforted millions of hurting hearts around the world. You Are the Mother of All Mothers is her first book, and is dedicated to grieving mothers everywhere.
Join Angela’s compassionate village at A Bed For My Heart.
Karen, Miss Emelee's momma says
Yes, I am a mother, still a mother, always will be a mother. God chose me to mother my child, Emelee, to raise her to be the best she could be. A privilege and honor it is, to be her mother. I lost my child Emelee at age 23 after losing 6 before her. All seven of my children are in Heaven. Through your words, I am able to identify these emotions. Before I could not find words to describe the intensity, the depth, this paralyzing grief. Thank you for being you and reaching out to all mothers.
God Bless you. Having lost one child – my 30 year old son, I can only imagine your pain. I have no words for comfort or advice. May the beautiful memories of your daughter and your other children be a comfort to you. Prayers sent.
Kathy Leonard says
Wow! What amazing faith you must have❣I lost both of mine plus a daughter-in-law. But seven? I thought my story was hard to believe, but your legacy is hard to imagine❣
Thank you for sharing, and please share more❤️
In prayer for you, amazing Mom????
Susan Bailey says
Thanks to your post I will know now in the future that yes, such a loss should be acknowledged. I’m sure many people just don’t realize that it obviously hurts you more to NOT acknowledge than to acknowledge. I have saved every single card I received after my mom passed away and now make a habit of sending cards when friends lose loved ones. They really do matter as you say.
Mother’s Day is also hard on those of us who have lost our mothers. My mom died just a few weeks before Mother’s Day in 2010 and Mother’s Day that year was harder than the day she died. She and I had a yearly ritual of visiting a historic park cemetery, Mt Auburn in Cambridge, MA, and taking in the spring migration of birds while appreciating the flowers. Now my daughter and I do that in her honor.
Speaking of acknowledgement, my mother-in-law made sure I got a card on the 6th anniversary of my mom’s death. She wrote such a lovely note and I cherished that one card as you cherished yours.
Debbie Wedding says
I want to order her book. How can I do this please?
Tracy Stillwater says
I am so grateful for this! I’m grateful for it’s honesty & bravery & for pulling no punches. My daughter died 5 mos. ago. I’ve wondered if my mothering her even mattered in the world… I don’t dwell there, but the idea hits me hard when it comes. Thank you… thank you… <3
Tracy Stillwater says
(… 4 weeks exactly, after my mom died… TS)
Tracy- it mattered. We all question ourselves when our children pass away. We question what we did wrong. Why us? Was I a bad parent?
I am sure you were s great parent. We don’t know why bad things happen to good people. But I am expecting my God to keep His promise and allow me to be with my baby boy again some day. God Bless!
Donna bruner says
My daughter and only child passed away two years ago on May 16, 2014. This is a very emotional time for me because her birthday is in April, Mothers Day and the anniversary of her passing. My memories also include the painful months and last weeks of her hospital stays.
Mothers Day is a very painful day for all of us who have lost a child.
Thank you for the beautiful post. You captured how I feel.
Sherry Elliott says
Thank you. This year is super hard for me. It’s been 3 years since my daughter’s brutal and horrific death. The hard part is my birthday and Mother’s Day are the same day this year. My daughter always did up my birthday. She always made sure my birthday and Mother’s Day we two separate things.
Kris (Cooper's Mom) says
Angela- You a blessing! I always loved Mother’s Day because I would think back about how each of my five children came into our life. Four precious boys born to us and our beautiful daughter through adoption. I would literally have tears thinking of the days of their births and the day our daughter came to us as well as her adoption day. I had these tears because these were truly the most blessed days of my life – they were the moments that created motherhood for me and why there was a Mother’s Day to celebrate. I would cherish the little “hand print” cards they would make at school so lovingly for my perfect Mother’s Day gift and hide away until just the right time when they would all rush to me – wanting theirs to be opened first. I have them still. The last of the handprints I got was the one they made of our sweet youngest Cooper as he was in the hospital dying at age 13. Mother’s Day is different now. I have often put my own hand in that impression of his, amazed at how much bigger than my own it is – he was only 13, still our baby. People don’t get the pain that Mother’s Day brings to a mom that has lost their child. Thank you for putting into words perfectly pain that is almost impossible to describe. You do that so beautifully, so often. You are a blessing Angela… And you will always be his mom just as I will always be Cooper’s – nothing can ever ever end that kind of love. Again …thank you. Kris
Jan Pearcey says
Thank you Angela and A Bed For my Heart, Still Standing Magazine, and You Are The Mother of all Mothers. You are a comfort and an inspiration. Happy Mothers Day! Love and hugs, Jan Pearcey ????
I will hug the one child I still have a little closer on Sunday. When her brother’s birthday rolls around on May 16, I will hug her even more. Four passes but the pain is still there, holiday and birthdays tend to be unforgiving. The loss of a child is like no other loss, yet it allows me to help others while they grieve. Eyes wide open to their pain even if mine are filled with tears.
Peg Mann says
It is so hard to be around people that have children and they talk about them and their grandchildren. My son has been gone two years now and I don’t have any other children or grandchildren. The first Mothers Day was really hard. I have a voicemail from my son where he tells me Happy Mothers Day and I am grateful for that. Missing him is an unbearable pain that I revisit every day. There is very little support for parents going through loss of a child. I look forward to seeing my son again one day – when I think of him I try to think of his beautiful smile and how I felt when I would see him each time. Having him in my life was a blessing and he lit up my world. I will try to focus on that on Mothers Day instead of my loss and thank God for the time I had with him.
I have a good friend who had to watch her two sons long terrible journey with Juvenile Huntingtons disease and then watch her husband go through the same thing. In a space of ten years, her family has been wiped out and she in turn developed cervical and breast cancer from stress. She’s a survivor. When ever she posts a memorial on Facebook for the boys birthdays or anniversary of when they earned their wings, she feels she has to justify herself and apologise for annoying people with her photos. I keep telling her that ‘Once a mother, always a mother,’ and to never ever feel ashamed for loving her boys. Then, she has to deal with family members of hers, telling her that she’s just after attention. Some people can be so critical and nasty.
Julie Peck says
So very beautifully said! Thank you so very much for all that you do ! And I will be thinking of you this Mother’s Day along with each and every mother out there. We all have Mother Hearts and we are amazing mothers. <3 Bless you sweetie <3
gloria mutschlechner says
Everyday is a difficult day. I feel as if though I am pretending to be alright when deep down inside I am living my own prison sentence without parole.
My only child was taken from me and my husband ( of 27 years. )
January 1, 2016 She was the designated driver after a new years party. A man shot her behind the head at a stop light. after the boys exchanged words. The high powered bullet exploded in her brain and THANK GOD she died instantly. it happened in Denton texas on 1700 block of N. Elm st. I will never be the same. Thank you for the blog. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone. Thank you. god bless
It breaks my heart open to know this was posted the day my beautiful Andrea died. We had no Mother’s Day because we were in the middle of planning her service. No one even thought to get a card for my poor my mom.
I dread what the next one will bring, not just for me, but for my surviving daughter. I plan on staying away from social media because I don’t know that I’ll be able to handle all the Happy Mother’s Day posts.
Thank you so much for writing this. It does help to know that I’m not alone in this. It so often feels that way.
Thank you for your heartfelt words of sorrow and grief. I feel the same. I don’t want any ones pity, I just want my son to be remembered. I want my friends to say his name to me. To not ignore his death. To acknowledge his existence.To remember that I am still his mother….and always will be.
Happy Mothers Day to all moms missing their children.<3
I lost my only son, my only child Migui last Jan. 14, 2017. I dread this year’s mother’s day. But thank you for this. Thank you for saying I am still a mother.
Thank u for this! Words can never explain the pain of losing a child unless u been through the devistation. I’ll never be the same. I miss him so much!