What it means to be a mother after the loss of your child

Am I still a mother? This time of year, this is a question that I am frequently asked, especially by other mother’s, who like me, have lost a child.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and with it comes wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day. However, for mothers whose child died, it can be a day filled with grief and sadness. Conflicting emotions of yearning for their child and wanting to remember how amazing it is to be a mother persist.

In 1991 I celebrated my very first Mother’s Day with my 9-month-old daughter. As a 9-month-old, she was smiling back at me, cooing, and rolling over to get where she wanted to go. She was pulling herself up on the coffee table and I knew she would be walking soon. I was on top of cloud nine. My heart was full of gratitude and love.

Just a few weeks later, my daughter was gone. She died in a daycare accident. My world was shattered. I thought children were not meant to die before their parents. I felt like my identity as a mother was stripped like a tree by a beavers gnawing and chewing. I couldn’t relate to being a mother because I no longer had a child.

In 2018, I lost another child. This time, it was my 24-year-old son to suicide. This set me back on my heals, asking the question once again, am I a mother?

The loss of a precious child is complicated – no matter what their age, 9 months, an infant, in utero, 24 years old, failed adoption or friends. It brings the question, am I a mother to living children only, or all my children – those in heaven included.

So, what is a mom to do? The first thing is to remember that no-one or no circumstance will take away who you are as a mother.

Allow me to assure you that a mother is a mother. Period. There are no ifs and or buts about this. When you carry a child in your heart, love them, make space in your home, and have dreams of a shared future, you are a mother.

We deserve to celebrate being a mother, a mom. We should allow ourselves to be honored for the mother’s that we are, no matter if your child is walking this earth or dancing in heaven.

The weeks leading up to Mother’s Day is filled with joyful marketing campaigns, remembering moms everywhere. This is a cruel reminder if you have lost a child that you will spend the day without them.

As a mother, you still have feelings, you want to be recognized and loved.

One of the things I remember the most about my son is his great hugs. I take it one step further and make sure there is a true connection, heart to heart. This is done by hugging the opposite of what you have been doing for most of your life. Instead of right chest to right chest, make it left to left. That is where your heart sits. Now hold that hug for as long as you can, at least 10 seconds. Go for 30 seconds if the other person allows. This connects the two of you in the heart. Notice if you feel a release of tension and anxiety. I teach everyone around me to hug like this and whenever we see each other, I get heart-to-heart hugs.

Friends and family may be hesitant to acknowledge your motherhood. It is important that you take the lead and let others know you still would like to be honored as a mother. You would enjoy receiving flowers, gifts, breakfast in bed and a day off from chores. No different than a mother who has not lost a child.

Do something for yourself. I love getting massages, so I treat myself to them. There is so much therapeutic value in getting a massage when you are grieving. I suggest working with a masseuse who specializes in fascia release. Grief hangs out in this connective tissue between your skin and muscles. Be prepared to let go of some sadness and create room for healing.

If you have not lost a child, on this day, take a few moments to remember those who have a very different relationship to this day than you do. Tell them you love them. Talk about their child or send them a card. Invite them to go for a walk, offer to go to the cemetery or take them to lunch. It will help them to feel appreciated, loved and that their child is remembered.

To answer my own question, am I a mother to living children or all children? Without a doubt, I answer that I am a mother to 4 children, two in heaven and two on earth.

Once a mother – always a mother.

May you find joy in being a mother.


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