I don’t know how I am just hearing about this nascent movement for an International Bereaved Mother’s Day. Apparently the day is to be observed and distinguished as separate from the traditional second Sunday of the month of May, the regular Mother’s Day of which we are all aware. I don’t know why as bereaved mothers we should not be acknowledged as mothers along with all other mothers, on the same day.
Yes, Mother’s Day is exceedingly painful. Since my son died in 2006, Mother’s Day for me has been one of the most trying days of the year. I also have a living child, a daughter born two years after the death of her brother. I desperately long for both of my children to be here to celebrating me as their mother, giving me sweet handmade cards, gifts, hugs, kisses, breakfasts in bed, whatever thing kids come up with to show their moms they love them on that special day. Mother’s Day is mostly an incredibly painful day.
I look at my beautiful, spirited, brilliant, funny, creative daughter and am profoundly grateful for her presence and so proud to be her mother. And that is always true, every day of the year. And the excruciating pain of being without my son whom I love equally, and of whom I am also incredibly proud, is also a daily fact of my life. My grief and my state of bereavement are present every day of my life. Somehow though, on Mother’s Day, for me (and I don’t think I am alone among bereaved mothers), that pain is more present than nearly all of the other 364. My felt and experienced state of being bereft of my first born child is somehow on Mother’s Day unyielding. It is searing and stark.
It is precisely because of the pain of Mother’s Day that I don’t want a special Bereaved Mother’s Day. I am a mother. A mother of two children. One who is alive and one who is dead. My motherhood for both of my children is special and sacred and also totally ordinary. I am a mother, among many mothers. This is also true for all bereaved mothers; those who also have living children and those whose only children, or all of their children, are dead. All our motherhood should be acknowledged and recognized as special, as sacred and as much our everyday as the motherhood of those fortunate enough to have all of their children alive here on this earth.
Bereaved parents already feel isolated enough. Why do we need a separate day to receive acknowledgement for being mothers? Bereaved motherhood is worthy of being acknowledged, honored and recognized along with every other kind of motherhood. We are mothers. I don’t want a separate day. I want to be acknowledged on Mother’s Day for mothering both of my children, living and dead. I want all bereaved mothers to be acknowledged as mothers on Mother’s Day with every other mother. We are all mothers and should be honored as such. We don’t need to be any more separate than we already are.
I recognize that not everyone may share my sentiment. I think it’s an important point to make though. We don’t need more separation in this world. Not any of us—bereaved or non-bereaved. Don’t we already spend enough time feeling different, misunderstood, isolated and alone? More of that is not necessary or good for us. Let us ask instead for our motherhood to be lovingly acknowledged, honored and recognized along with all mothers, as we are all mothers. I am a bereaved mother yes. But I am a mother. We need each other. Our collective state of bereaved motherhood should be recognized as just as significant, as important, as honorable, as included as all of motherhood.
We are mothers. Always. On all days.
Karla Helbert, LPC