Written by Sarah Pridham, mum of Jasper, for Still Aware.
“Mother’s Day is a day of appreciation and respect. I can think of no Mothers who deserve it more, than those who had to give a child back” – Emma Bombeck
As soon as the end of April creeps up, so starts the tormenting roller-coaster of emotions and grief knowing that Mother’s Day is just around the corner. For a bereaved mother we live everyday with many confusing contrasts, and Mother’s Day just magnifies these even more, it is like a constant current that tugs and tosses about our hearts and minds.
Mother’s Day is supposed to be a day to honour the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds and the influence of mothers in society…but what is Mother’s Day for a mother who lost her child? Well, I’m not sure I even have the answers and this year it is the second Mother’s Day since we lost our son and for me it is still the second hardest day of the year. To be honest, I’m not sure if the lead up to the day or the day itself is the hardest part but I know that this day will never be the same again, it will never mean what it is supposed to mean.
I remember the first Mother’s Day that I really experienced was when I was pregnant with our son. That year the meaning of the day really changed for me, I remember being filled with so much joy and love – so much appreciation for the blessing of life inside and so much celebration in wondering what was to come. A woman doesn’t become a mother when she has her baby, she becomes a mother the moment she conceives the baby and that Mother’s Day in 2017 I was honoured to be carrying our son and I was so excited knowing that the next year I would be celebrating the day with our son by our side. Little did I know that was not how the story would carry out.
So, what is Mother’s Day to me?
It’s a day that feels like a roller-coaster ride from the moment I wake up (if I manage to get any sleep the night before) – I reflect on how lucky I am to have been blessed with a beautiful son, I face the anger that creeps up knowing that his death was preventable, then the loneliness settles in – reminding me that instead of spending the day with my son I have to spend it with memories, photos and a keepsake box. I wonder throughout the day who my son would have been, what we would have been doing for the day and what the day would have meant to be if he was still here. The day takes me right through my pregnancy journey – from finding out I was pregnant, the journey of the 38 weeks that I was pregnant for and then the horrific heartbreak and journey that we went through from the moment I went into hospital and labour, to the moment I woke up and was told our son didn’t survive.
Apart from spending the day in the darkest spots within my own mind I also spend it going through photos, sympathy cards we received and all items in his keepsake box and then I walk through his nursery and spend the following hour crying my eyes out and writing a letter to him in my journal. The day is spent feeling like I am on a constant loop the loop rollercoaster with the wave of emotions that I go through, then they start back at the beginning and repeat all over again until I finally get to leave the day behind (for another year anyway). It certainly isn’t how I had imagined Mother’s Day being for me and this day will never be the same for me for the rest of my life.
As a mother who has experienced the death of their only child, I spend the lead up to the day and the day itself wondering if I even get to call myself a mother at all. Despite knowing deep down that I am, society isn’t set up to include bereaved Mother’s on Mother’s Day – everyone focuses on it being a celebration and a day of happiness, barely anyone realises that for so many women out there it is a day where they want to simply curl up on the couch in their pyjamas and forget that the day even exists. Society doesn’t realise that these women – the strongest women in the world should be the ones that are celebrated on this day. To continue to live everyday without one or more of your children is one of the hardest things anyone can ever do – to have to face this torture and nightmare every day that they wake up and continue with their lives is bravery in its truest form. These are the women that should be honoured on this day which is meant to be about honouring Mother’s all over the world.
Whilst I don’t have all the answers about Mother’s Day, I do know that this day will be forever hard for me. I live with an emptiness no one can fill and on this day I may be sad, I may be unsociable and I may need to take a break to be by myself, but whatever shape my grief takes on this day, I need to be allowed to feel the way I feel and to do what I need to do.
As this day approaches yet again, this is my message to any bereaved mother out there – do not worry about other people on this day, put yourself forward for once, do what you need to do, feel what you need to feel – if those around you cannot support what you need to do and cannot support how you feel then they really have no place in your life, after all, if they have not had to walk a similar journey then they have no right to judge your journey. If they cannot support you at your darkest times, then they shouldn’t be there in your lightest times either – those that cannot walk with us in the dark, through the hurt, pain and grief, do not have the right to walk beside us in the light, through the happiness and love.
From one bereaved Mother to another…
“Our children will remain with us
As we all travel on
Such precious moments do not fade
Because their time is done
For never will our children be
More than a thought away
As long as there is breath in us
Then in our hearts they stay”
- Author Unknown