How to cope with Mother's day after losing your child.
Every day may feel like a challenge, but somehow your love and hope carry you through your grief journey, but on days like Mother's day your grief just hits you a little harder, like a smack in the face and your heart aches a little more, if that’s at all possible.
As a mother who lost a son to cancer and a baby via miscarriage, I want to reach out and offer all grieving mums some comfort, that you can get through these dark times and find peace, love and connection in your heart once again, just like I have.
How are you feeling as we get closer to this coming Mother's day?
Are you dreading this coming Mother's day?
Do you feel these special occasions are no longer special without your preciouschild to spend time with?
For many parents who have lost a child, special days like Mother's Day don’t get any easier, and in some ways get harder as you are often more numb to the pain in the early years and people were there to support you, but is this support now waning? Maybe they don’t realise how much this day affects you.
You are naturally missing your child every day, but the intensity of your emotions can feel worse on these days, by either your expectations of the day or what others expect of you on the day.
The first step I believe, is to take care of yourself on those days, to not expect too much of yourself and do what is right for you. Decide if and how you want to mark the occasion, but be aware that not marking the day can be a way of suppressing how you are feeling about the day and what it means to you, I was the queen of suppressing my emotions as they were just too painful to bear when I lost Adam.
To a bereaved Mother, Mother’s day is probably one of the hardest to deal with, such a mix of emotions and everywhere you turn there are reminders of the day both on the lead up to it and the weekend itself.
How to Care for yourself on Mother’s Day
Have a plan about how you are going to CARE for yourself on the day. Start with the basics and try to get a good night’s sleep the evening before so you can be as fresh and strong as possible on the day.
Make sure you have food in the house, maybe have something pre-prepared the day before if you don’t particularly enjoy cooking, or, if you enjoy cooking then have a plan for what you are going to cook on the day and get all the shopping in you will need, you can do an online order if you don’t feel like going out.
Keep yourself hydrated, drinking water is vital to everyday health and can help if you are physically processing and releasing, if it’s a time where you would normally drink alcohol to celebrate, partake if you feel like it, but please watch overindulgence of alcohol, as that could be another way of masking your true feelings.
Start and or finish your day with a relaxing soak in the bath, with some calming essential oils to relax you and a scented candle.
Communicate with your family how you would like to celebrate.
Let family and friends know how you feel about the forthcoming Mother’s day and how they can help and support you to get through that day.
Maybe your family wants to take you out, to show you how much they love you, but for you, going out to eat in a packed restaurant with everyone else celebrating the special day, maybe your worst nightmare.
You may prefer to be alone, as you just don’t feel like being sociable, if that is the case then it is important to communicate this with friends & family and hopefully, they will respect your wishes. However, please be wary of being on your own, we can often isolate ourselves in our grief, as we find it difficult to express our thoughts & feelings to others, often we are unclear about how we feel or are scared of having a breakdown in public. You may be unwittingly pushing people away who them to do, even if it’s just sitting with you and having a box of tissues to hand.
Different people have different ways of showing love and affection, here are 5 common ways (known as the 5 Love Languages, you can get further info via https://www.5lovelanguages.com/
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
This may affect how you, your partner and other close family members show their love As mentioned before, it is particularly important to be open with your partner as you have both lost a child, and this is a massive trauma for you both to cope with. There is no right or wrong thing to do, trust your instincts about what feels right for you and communicate this with your partner.
If you have other children, you may wish to think about how you would like to spend the day with them, depending on their ages communicate how you are feeling about the forthcoming day, directly with them.
If you have younger children they may be grieving too, missing their brother or sister, try to be open with them, even if you cry and get upset, hiding your feelings and bottling things up serves no-one. If you really can’t cope, is there another close family member who can talk to your children with you? the more open you can be as a family, the easier it may be to help one another grieve, understand each other’s needs and move through your grief and step towards the sunshine together.
If your mum is still around, she has lost a Grandchild and will be suffering seeing you, her own child suffering too. Talk to your Mother if you can and share your feelings about the day with her and try and make a connection that suits you both in marking the day.
Holidays and special days like Mother's day, just heighten our feelings of loss even more, as they are the times we miss our children more than ever and everywhere we appear to see happy families. Connection is vital at this time and sharing stories about your child can help you to heal, remembering joyous times you had, special memories of previous Mother’s Days.
How you can feel Connected to your child.
It may not feel like it now, but please know you can feel connected to your child again, your physical bond is broken, but your soul bond with them is not, your child will remain in your heart and connected to your soul forever.
In the early years after losing Adam the pain was unbearable and I tried to numb myself off to the pain as I felt like I would die if I faced it fully. I can’t remember what I did the first mother's day, probably drank too much… the second mother's day I did the dutiful thing and visited my mum, we weren’t particularly close but she was my mum and I loved her in my own way. A couple of months before Adams 2nd Angelversary, my Dad died of a fatal heart attack, so on my 3rd mother's day I had to be strong for my Mum as she was coping with losing my Dad who was her world. The following January my Mum sadly passed away and so the next couple of Mother's day were a bit of a blur… I wasn’t a mother anymore and I didn’t have a mother either.
In March 1998 I was blessed by having a second son and so celebrated Mother's day with my precious baby, bittersweet as his big brother was not there to celebrate too and neither was my Mum. Around 6 months later I suffered a miscarriage and lost another child, so the following Mother's day I just had to focus on the love and gratitude I had for my beautiful son Nathan, realising that many people don’t have this blessing after losing a child. The following year was much the same but with the added blessing that I was around 7 months pregnant awaiting the arrival of my 3rd son, I always tried to appreciate what I had, a loving husband and 2 beautiful, amazing, loving sons. It was always my deepest wish that Adam could have been with us too, he was always in my heart but I focused my energies on my two sons who deserved a fully present loving mother.
In the years in between we carried on much the same, my mother in law was great and part filled a hole in my heart where I missed my own mum, she was great with her grandchildren, like a second mum as well as a Nan, when I had my wobbly moments. My husband and my in-laws were sensitive to my loss of Adam and were of great support to me, but as they never knew him, I buried much of my deep sadness as it was easier to keep it hidden and I didn’t want to upset my children. I had to introduce them to their brother and grandparents via a graveside, which they just accepted as it was all they knew. In 2011 my sons father and I separated and so the next few years they were my rocks, again I had to find gratitude for the 2 wonderfulboys I had and the love they had for me, was my only comfort.
In 2016 I had a resurgence of grief, which at first I pushed back down as I thought I had moved through my grief, but it was not to be silenced, the Universe had bigger plans.
In November that year, I discovered a way to finally, fully release the deep sadness and grief which I had been holding onto for all those years, which had been weighing me down. Although it looked to the outside, like I was doing OK there were many thoughts and feelings that I had just not processed around my grief. After my initial release at the retreat I attended, I made a commitment to share this with other parents so they could benefit from being able to release their sadness too and find their own way towards finding some sunshine in their life once again.
From finally going deep, looking at my thoughts, beliefs and feelings I found a way to process my grief on all levels, mentally, emotionally and energetically and be finally free to truly live my life from a place of love and support.
I’m still sad that Adam did not get to live his life here on earth, that I did not get to see him grow up, enjoy the rest of his childhood, grow into a lovely young man (just like his brothers who are now 18 & 21), be here to celebrate days like Mother's Day, Birthdays and Christmas with me and find love and maybe have children of his own. However, I have now full accepted this was just not meant to be and have found a different way to connect with Adam. Instinctively across the years, I dealt with my loss as best I could to protect myself and my children from the pain of that loss. I used to visit the graveside to feel close to him, as in the early years, this is where I logically thought he was, even though I could be anywhere and suddenly Adamwould come into my mind, a song or a place would trigger a memory… I now have a way to release any painful memories and instead connect via my heart with Adam’s soul whenever I choose and this gives me great comfort.
For instance, the picture of Adam below was taken a few weeks before he died, I used to look at it and see how ill he looked, but now I look at it and see/remember how happy he was to meet his Idol Batman (even if he was only a waxworks) and what an amazing time we had at my friends, truly being with each other and connecting from pure love.
You can release any negative thoughts and feelings that are coming up for you relating to your child's death, so you can raise your vibration, enabling you to feel connected with memories of happy times and actually feel connected to your child.
Think about what you can do to feel a connection with your child ;
♥ Visit their grave if this gives you comfort
♥ Go to a favourite place of theirs and spend some quiet time there
♥ Journal to them how much you love them and what you loved doing together
♥ Sit and meditate to connect with your child (hold a photo/piece of jewellery/clothing/toy etc… of your child)
Again, communicate this to your partner and any other children you have. Maybe you can be taken there first to spend some special time connecting and then be taken to have a family meal with the other children you have (if you have other children),where you could share favourite memories and family stories around the dinner table and CREATE a special day with all your children, or if it is just you and your partner now, go home for a special meal and share your precious memories together and your hopes and desires for the future.
Probably, just like me, you were brought up to believe that Special days like Mother’s Day are fun and joyful. But now that you are grieving, it can make special days like Mother’s Day, a painful and exhausting experience.
Take the time to find healing activities and appreciate what and whom you still have in your life.
Look at what your loss experience has taught you about the strength you have found in yourself.
You know what it’s like when Mother’s Day is all around you, in the shops, on TV and Social Media etc… and everyone around you seems to be busy celebrating when you just feel miserable.
You can create activities which help you feel connected to your child, here are a few ideas:
♥ Keep a journal
This can become an outlet to share what you are going through, your thoughts and emotions, sometimes just getting them down on paper is enough, but you can also use techniques like the one I share to help you release that thought or emotionon all levels.
You can also create a love journal, to tell your child how much you love them and keep them involved of what is going on with the family, my belief is that they are with us always, they see everything so they know what is happening anyway.
♥ Use poetry to memorialize your child
Poems have great meaning to those who write them and those who read them
♥ Write a letter to yourself
This can be about your child, what you now know about what happened to them, what got you through it, and how you found meaning in it.
♥ Create a memory book/box or Jar
This can contain photos or be a box with mementos and reminders of the connection you shared with your child
♥ Wear something your child gave you
You can just wear this for you or let others know of its significance
♥ Light a fragrant candle and create a ritual as you light it, you can use this to reflect on your child’s life.
Rituals have a beginning and an end. That is why lighting and extinguishing a candle is symbolic
♥ Keep an item that belonged to your child
These objects are physical items that connect you to your child and can help you with acceptance. These items hold special meaning and serve as reminders that you are still spiritually connected with your child
♥ Create a memorial fund
This child’s memory at a nursing home, homeless shelter or charity they supported, or which helped them
♥ Read a card or letter given to you by your child
I still have a couple of items Adam made at his playgroup on display in my living room
♥ Watch a home video/DVD of your child
When watching this you can remember the happy times you shared with your child and fire the neurons which will create more happy memories
♥ Express your feelings through music
Whether you choose to sing a song or write one, creative expression can be healing. Sit back and listen to a song that is meaningful to you and brings you strength
♥ Buy a gift for yourself
This gift can be one your child would have liked or what they may have bought you
♥ Create a memory quilt
This can be used to cover a bed or chair include family and friends in this activity if it helps. A quilt can be made of digital photos transferred to fabric squares and you could use some of your child’s clothing
♥ Take care of yourself
Focus on eating right, exercising, limiting alcohol, maintaining healthy body weight, and getting adequate sleep
♥ Give yourself permission to leave early from a gathering
If you went to a family gathering and felt ill after you have arrived it would be perfectly acceptable to leave, so if you don’t feel ‘right’ at a gathering it’s perfectly fine to say so and leave if you feel you need to
♥ Shop online
If you don’t feel like going out shopping, especially during the lead up to Mother’s day, when there may be many painful reminders around, consider catalogue, Internet shopping or ask a friend or family member to get some shopping for you.
♥ Let others know that it’s okay to reminisce
If you want to talk about your child, let people know, they may be keeping quiet for fear of upsetting you, it could simply be a lack of communication. Usually, stories lead to stories that will make you laugh which can actually help you manage these special days.
Think about what you can simplify. As you focus on traditions, be mindful of those things you can handle and those things you want to change. Let others know the changes you intend to make.
These special days should be joyful and fun times, so use some of the ideas above to remember these special times with love and happiness. Review the traditions you follow to see if they are right for you now and make new ones to do on those special days. Creating these new traditions and rituals can transform the way you feel about those days. These days can highlight the special connection between a parent and child (no matter how old the child was). Parenthood is a bond like no other. On these special days, it can highlight who is not there with you if that’s what you choose to focus on, but they are with us still just in a different way, so find a different way to connect with your child.
Your child will be in your heart forever, just because they are physically not with you doesn’t mean their soul isn’t still with you. When you wake up on Mother’s day, spend a few minutes either meditating about how you feel and sending messages to your child through meditation. You can also spend this time journaling to your child, what you loved that they used to do for you or whatever you want to convey to still feel connected to them.
You can reminisce about your child with those who are compassionate and are happy to just be there and listen to the stories you wish to share.
As with everything else in life, there is a yin and yang balance, not talking about your child and bottling up your thoughts and feelings is one side and constantly talking about your child is the other; neither of these are ideal. Create a balance that suits you, releasing any resistant thoughts and feelings and then you will be able to share openly from the heart about your child, when you have harmony in your life.
One of the things I want to see change, is people become more open about loss and that it is not seen as a taboo subject, that few want to discuss.
Dealing with thoughts and emotions on those special days
It is very likely that these special days will trigger thoughts and emotions. Be aware of this and have your way of dealing with anything that comes up, imagine the thought in writing and then imagine a big fat rubber erasing this thought for you. If you have worked with me you will have the technique I share with clients to release any unwanted thoughts that arise. The method, in short, is just releasing the thought you don’t want and turning it into a more positive one, and then we replace your unwanted thought with the one you do want. This will raise your vibrations and change how you feel to something lovely.
No matter how short the life of your child – CELEBRATE IT in a happy, joyful and loving way.
Wan’t to know more about coping as a bereaved parent? then book a call with Jude
and/or join Sadnesstosunshine support group for bereaved parents