Yesterday was International Bereaved Mother’s Day, which is celebrated on the first Sunday in May. This very special day was created in 2010 by mom Carly Marie Dudley a few years after her beloved son Christian was born still. International Bereaved Mother’s Day honours and celebrates mothers who carry some, or perhaps all, of their children in their hearts rather than in their arms.
Carly wanted to help other grieving mothers by letting them know that they were not alone. She dedicated International Bereaved Mother’s Day to women who felt forgotten and isolated in their grief on Mother’s Day (traditionally held on the second Sunday of May each year). The traditional occasion celebrating Mother’s Day in May is often an emotionally exhausting day for so many moms around the world. On International Bereaved Mother’s Day, moms who have lost their child/children are able to come together and support one another by sharing their memories, their pain, and their stories. It is a chance to remind each other that they are not alone in their grief.
Still Standing Magazine notes that:
“Just because your child died does not mean that you are not a mother anymore. You are your child’s mother forever, and people need to start recognizing this fact.”
Friends, colleagues, and even family members often feel helpless in terms of what they can say or do to provide support to a bereaved parent and so instead, they say nothing. This lack of acknowledgement can make a bereaved parent feel even more isolated and alone in their grief. It can be very difficult to know how to acknowledge a grieving mom, especially in May when mothers are traditionally celebrated, however, the loving presence of family and friends and a willingness to simply be there and remember a little one gone too soon is often enough.
How to gently support a bereaved mother …
To support a grieving mother, simply being there with her in her grief without trying to ‘fix’ the pain she is feeling is enough (because you simply cannot resolve the pain or make it better and you truly don’t need to).
When holidays like International Bereaved Mother’s Day and Mother’s Day come around, let bereaved mothers know that you remember with them…
Say their child’s name. Mothers are always thinking of their baby/babies and don’t want them to be forgotten, so you’re not going to negatively “remind” her of her child.
Send a loving message of support by way of an email or a card in the mail.
Celebrate her as a mom (because she will always be a mom even if her child/children are held in her heart rather than in her arms).
Light a candle in memory of her child/children.
Donate to a cause that is important to her in memory of her child/children and let her know you did so.
Simply let her know that you are thinking of her and that you are there and that you will continue to be there for her.
If she wants to share, listen to her story and again, don’t be afraid to speak her child/children’s name(s).
Most of all, don’t avoid her – this will only make her feel more alone and isolated in her grief.
Celebrating Mother’s Day as a Bereaved Mom
Have a moment of silence, reflection, or meditation throughout the day.
Make or buy a memorial wind chime or create or have a charm bracelet made for you of things that remind you of your child/children.
Write a letter to your child/children.
Plant a tree or flower in honour of your child/children.
Have a quiet spa day at home and make time for self-care.
Go somewhere that was special to your child/children or reminds you of them.
OR … DO NOTHING AT ALL.
Some wise and compassionate words from The Morning blog:
"Take a nap. Stay in your pajamas. Stay in bed, cozy under the covers.
There is NO guilt or shame to be had here.
Because you’re still a mom even if you do none of these things.
You are still loved.
You are still celebrated.
Your baby is still remembered.
You are still and will always be … a mom."
HHA's next 6-week virtual Our Babies, Our Grief progressive healing group begins June 1st at 7:00pm EST. You can register here.
You can also participate in an Our Babies, Our Grief virtual monthly drop-in group held on the 3rd Thursday of every month at 7:00pm EST by registering here.
Carole Brulé is an end-of-life doula, an infant and pregnancy loss doula candidate with Home Hospice Association, and a visiting home hospice and pediatric palliative care volunteer.