real life

Advice for facing Mother's Day, from one bereaved mum to all.

This time of year can seem heavy and confusing for mothers who have experienced the death of a baby. Bereavement for everyone is different, however Mother’s Day and Bereaved Mother’s Day are undoubtedly a time where you can feel the raw emotion of the loss of your child anew.

On this day my fellow beautiful bereaved mums, be gentle on yourself. If you feel a situation is triggering your emotions, be mindful of that; acknowledge the love, acknowledge the loss. Don’t push the emotions aside, remember your love and grief are tangled together – you have to feel the grief to get to the love. Take time out to re-centre yourself, those emotions are your connection to your child.

A few practical suggestions for a bereaved mum:

  • Write a letter to your baby.
  • Write a letter to yourself at the time of your loss, expressing support and understanding for yourself as you go through the loss.
  • Take a canvas outside and paint a picture for them.
  • Lose yourself in an activity or hobby that brings you joy and peace of mind.
  • Take a walk, around a nature track, around your suburb or along the beach, and dedicate that time to reflecting on your child.
  • Visit their grave or special place, read them a letter, read them a book – speak to them like they are listening.
  • Light a candle to represent you child’s love and presence at this time, and when you light it feel closer to them and their memory.
  • Purchase a gift that would be for a child of similar age to yours and donate it to a charity. This can be a good one for families with living children, as you can spend time discussing and reflecting as the children buy a small gift for their sibling and you know that it will be going to a worthwhile charity. It is also quite a joyous activity.

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Be realistic with your expectations, it will be hard, especially if this your first Mother’s Day without your baby. Take time to know what you need, if you have made plans but cannot face them that’s OK, prioritise yourself and your comfort.

It can be so hard, but remember the joy that baby brought you, take some time to focus on the hope and love you shared. That bond never ceases. You are a parent and loving deeply is part of deal. Things in life are not always fair, or always good, you may not have your baby with you, but you have their memory and the love you shared. Try to do something that reminds of that bond, and of the love.

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Some tips for those close to a bereaved mother:

  • Don’t try and stop the person from showing emotion, if they are upset, just sit with them. Be the calm around their heightened emotions.
  • Let them talk about their sadness, their frustration, their anger, their love. It may be uncomfortable for you, but it’s reality for them.
  • To want to talk about their baby is a normal grief response (no matter how much time has passed), support them.
  • Be forgiving and understanding if they don’t engage in the celebrations. A bereaved parents mind is elsewhere.
  • Don’t try and fix it, don’t tell then it will be alright, just listen and support.
  • Of course, always use the baby’s name.

If years have passed since your loss, this may also be one of those times, like birthdays and anniversaries, when you can actually see the time passing on. This can make you feel as if you are leaving the baby and their memory behind, that time is moving on without you being ready for it to pass. With grief and loss, this is a hard one, to realise that time passes, and life moves on, it’s like a new rip in your already changed heart.

They say time heals all wounds, but that’s not the whole story – time just takes you further from the raw experiences of loss, but the emotions are always there. Be gentle with yourself. You are not moving on without them – you are not leaving them behind. They are now written into your life and you move forward with your life, their story is forever intertwined with yours. Carry it with pride, beautiful mother.

If you’re suffering after pregnancy loss or newborn bereavement,  24-hour support is available via the SANDS Australia hotline. Please call 1300 072 637.

Till is a Mother, Writer, Artist, Optimist, Stillbirth Advocate, Seamstress and Notoriously Bad Speller. She is the mother of four and is currently very tired. For more, follow her blog, The Still Life Project.

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