What Do You Say to a Bereaved Mother on Mother’s Day?

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and it’s no longer a day of simple joy.

It’s one of the odd holidays that’s bi-directional. Sentiment flows up and down through generations, focusing my thoughts on my mom and the heritage I have from her.

It’s also a special day to celebrate the privilege I had of giving birth to two amazing humans.

My mother is still living, and I’ll express my love for all she is to me. I can find meaning in the Hallmark holiday, though I don’t need that to prompt me to call her or tell her how I feel. I call her most days already, and the steady flow of conversation between us is the real gift. The fresh flowers delivered to her are just a symbol for a relationship that doesn’t need anything to gild it.

But as a mother myself, the day is fraught and complicated. I’ll only hear from one of my children tomorrow. Only one of them is living.

When you’ve lost a child, your life is forever changed, and that reality is part of the daily fabric of life, from the big days on the calendar to the smallest details of existence that resonate only with me.

I see the words, hear the reminders: don’t forget your mom. “Happy Mother’s Day!” Send the flowers, take her to brunch, give the beautiful card. And I do all the things, from the heart, for my mom.

But for myself, I’ll always struggle with the dichotomy of life. There are joys, deep happiness as I witness my daughter’s life, her family, her children, and the good things all around me. I love her, and hers, beyond measure.

I don’t know if I could have survived losing my son without the presence of my daughter. But neither is she my consolation prize. She was always loved for herself, just as he was.

There’s an abiding sorrow that shadows every waking moment. My son is gone, and I’ll never be the same. There’s always one missing from the photos, from our holidays, from our conversations. He left a hole that no one can fill.

But from another perspective, I am still a happy mother. I’m happy that I had two children, my daughter and my son. I’m thankful for the 30 years my son was with us, and all he meant to us and others.

He was a light, and I’ll always be thankful he lived. I could never be sorry he was born, even though I carry the burden of his loss.

Yes, I’m sad, every day. But I’m also happy and blessed. The great mystery of loss is that joy and sorrow co-exist, parallel tracks that don’t meet but run side by side. I’ll never understand it, but I live it, every day.

I don’t know if other bereaved moms feel the same way. Loss is unique for everyone, and no one can tell another person how to feel, how to live with loss of a child. I choose thankfulness whenever I can, beat back the sadness by remembering the good times we had for 30 years. And I celebrate the joys we still have with our daughter.

So hearing “Happy Mother’s Day,” I’m not offended, not defensive. It’s a reminder of all I’ve had, as well as what I’ve lost. It’s bittersweet. No changing that, and how could it be different? But I don’t need protection from the words.

I find that living with loss means re-living, and re-stating on a regular basis. I’ve said so much of this in the last four years, and I’ll need to say it again at regular intervals as long as I live. Grief changes with time, but it doesn’t end. You learn to absorb it, acknowledge it, accept it. It’s going to be with you forever. No one can take that away. But neither will I let grief so dominate my life that I forget to celebrate that my son lived, and that my daughter is my pride and joy.

I’ll always be thankful there were two children in my life, and the truth is, though one is living and one is not, there are still two. Happy Mother’s Day to me! My children are a big part of who I am, who I became through mothering. And while motherhood doesn’t solely define my life, it is precious to me, and an honor I cherish. It was and is my privilege and my joy to experience life through the lens of motherhood.

To bereaved mothers, all of you living the experience of loss as I do, I wish you peace, whatever your circumstances. I hope when you hear the greeting tomorrow you’ll know you did your part, you’ll find thankfulness for the good, and look for the light your son or daughter left as a beacon to find your way.

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http://storyrevisioned.com — Author + life purpose wisdom for drifting souls. Joy spreader; Dragon slayer on occasion. @Sheilalgibson

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Sheila Gibson

Sheila Gibson

http://storyrevisioned.com — Author + life purpose wisdom for drifting souls. Joy spreader; Dragon slayer on occasion. @Sheilalgibson

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