Updated: Mar 24
Being a Mother who is experiencing Mother's day after loss is poignant, often challenging and sometimes lonely. That loss could be your own Mum's passing or the loss of a good relationship with her, pregnancy or baby loss, or fertility loss.
BellyTots Rainbow Mamas is a new, free WhatsApp Support Group seeking to support women who are now Mothers themselves but have a background experience of loss in the context of motherhood. No loss is too small or insignificant to come and join us.
Infertility, pregnancy & baby loss
Mother's have almost apologised to me for grieving a baby after a late period where they had hoped very much that they were pregnant but had not tested yet, so never knew for sure.
Please know that loss is loss.
There is no quantifying, comparing or justifying. One woman's loss is not worse than another's because her baby was older, or their life was confirmed by a test.
For sure, we all find that our lives and ability to function are impacted to a greater or lesser degree by our grief response which often fluctuates enormously hour to hour, day to day and week to week - but that is our unique and individual response to our loss; not a measure of the significance of the loss in a wider sense.
Whether we lost our mothers early in life or later on; before or after the birth of our own child(ren); and whether through illness, tragedy or absence. We can be left with a sense of feeling rudderless and unguided; having to make it on our own; missing out. Significant older women in our lives can help so much; but...
no one can take the place of our own Mother.
Still others of us have experienced a difficult, stormy or abusive relationship with our own Mother. The abuse may be overt or through absence or neglect. We may survey the cards on offer for Mother's Day and feel disingenuous or uncomfortable picking up the 'Best Mum in the World' card. There can be anxiety about what to buy or whether to buy anything; what, how and whether to celebrate If our Mother's have now passed away or we are no-contact..
there can be a confusing sense of relief mixed in with the grief.
This can cause unnecessary guilt. Relief that abuse and/or difficulties are over is a healthy, normal response and does not negate the grief for what or who was lost, or our longing for things to be different.
Mother's Day can be poignant & challenging.
So, in all our different experiences of loss and grief around Motherhood. As Mothers ourselves on Mother's Day, what can we do to help ourselves?
1. Hold the tension.
It is ok to feel 2 or more contradictory thoughts or feelings at the same time. Joy at the child(ren) we now have and grief at the ones we don't. Joy at the baby in our arms; and grief that are own mother can't be there to hold them and be celebrated in her right. Joy for the child(ren) we have now and grief that more aren't forthcoming. It isn't easy to hold conflicting emotions but it is very normal.
2. Sit with and visualise the difficult emotions
Oftentimes we try to push away, avoid or stuff down strong and painful emotion. There is a time when we absolutely need to do this - if our children need attention or the dinner is about to burn.
But if there is a moment to stop; try to say to yourself: 'I am experiencing (name the emotion)'; then allow the emotion to exist and try to breathe through it - long, slow breaths; does the emotion have a colour?; where in your body can you feel it?; is it moving at all?
There is no right or wrong, just answer instinctively. Ask yourself: 'How long do I need to sit with this emotion?' Make a note of what pops into your head and commit to seeing if the emotion has indeed faded in intensity after the set amount of time. If the answer that comes to you is 'forever' - is that true? Did the emotion stay exactly the same forever? Usually when we allow strong emotions to exist within us, they fade away. When we fight them, they become more intense.
If this practice is just too much right now. Consider speaking with our resident Therapist Kathryn; or find a Professional via your GP; you can also try Petal's Charity or Tommy's for baby loss or Cruse Bereavement Support if you've lost your own Mum.
3. Find a way to honour your loss.
Though others around you may want to celebrate you on Mother's Day. Find a little bit of time to honour your loss and let those around you know that its important to do so.
It may be as simple as a few moments in the bathroom, looking in the mirror and remembering. Maybe having a look at precious items. Maybe creating a little area in your home with some photos or momentos, or lighting a candle.
If you have a faith, you may be able to visit a place of worship for a short time or talk with a Spiritual Leader.
You may prefer to simply focus on how far you've come if your loss is tinged by an abusive experience; or simply celebrate that you are still here, putting one foot in front of the other, despite your pain.
4. Find a way to celebrate what you have now.
Remember the first point? It's ok to hold the tension of conflicting emotions. If you can, allow yourself to celebrate what is. Allow your child(ren) to have a simple, happy celebration of their Mum. Perhaps enjoy seeing through your child(ren)'s eyes the simplicity and joy of having such a lovely Mum as you, even if they are still tiny.
5. Mother's Day is just a day.
An arbitrary day where various random people in the past decided to celebrate Mothers. Some people feel it's all a bit capatilistic It is not something we have to do. There is no law or moral consequence if we decide to keep our heads down, duck out of it altogether and carry on as normal. We can choose the meaning we want to give to it.
What would you add to this list? What have you found helpful? And do join our BellyTots Rainbow Mama's group if you are a Mum who has experienced a loss in the context of Motherhood. We would love to provide support and friendship in our WhatsApp group, please join us.