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Mother's Day is for Grieving Mothers, too


This is the day. Mother's Day. It is a day for all mothers, but mostly, Mother's Day was originally intended to honor a special mother: a grieving mother. It its purest form, this is our day.

It is a day to recognize tall mothers, short mothers, dark-skinned mothers, fair-skinned mothers, funny mothers, serious mothers, mothers with blonde hair, dark, and red hair, curly and straight. Mothers who are emotional and nurturing and mothers who are an Aurelian-brand of stoic.

Today, Mother's Day honors mothers of living children and it should also honor mothers of dead children.

There is nothing more painful in this world than facing day after endless day without your child in it. What could possibly be harder? Everything is changed- colors, textures, sounds, feelings. Us. We are changed.

Bereaved mothers look into the mirror and face a stranger. Who is this woman now? This woman without her child? How will she make it through this day, this hour, this moment?

Being a bereaved mother is exhausting. Night after night, we beg God or Yahweh or Allah or Mother Earth for just one more day, or even a moment, with our children. We cannot find our keys or our toothbrush or our parked car. We cannot find the shards of our hearts. We face so many unanswered questions, even striving to uncover 'why' and 'how', but there are no answers sufficient to satisfy the myriad mysteries that eventually collect webs in the backs of our minds.

And bereaved motherhood comes with many more sleepless nights than living motherhood, as our arms burn to hold our children, our hearts cry out to see them, our ears mislead us toward voices which do not exist, and our legs carry us, repeatedly, toward their empty, lonely nurseries and rooms.

Being a mother to a child who died is no easy burden. It is the hardest job of all.

Our lives are a unique juxtaposition between two worlds, life and death and between two states of being: incredible, immeasurable sadness balanced against the will and pressure to live again and find joy.

It is a world where we often have to defend the dignity of our dead, protect their memory, and advocate for the right to feel our righteous grief…

It is a world where we go to bed at night secretly wishing we wouldn't awaken.

It is a world where primal mourning takes over our bodies, and our hearts feel as if they've been excavated leaving a gaping, open wound in our core.

It is a world where we are judged for our tears, and where we fear for the lives of those we love with an unfamiliar panic.

It is a world of searching and yearning and pining for far longer than others allow.

It is a world full of reminders of what-should-have-been.

It comes with this wretched and indescribable longing which so many cannot begin to comprehend because they tuck their own children into bed at night, and they hug all their children on Mother's Day, and they are utterly, thankfully ignorant of this experience.

Nothing quenches the longing in our hearts for our children who died. Nothing. And this is how it should be.

The place in our hearts which belongs to them is theirs and theirs alone. Our duty is to honor that place, to keep it free from meaningless detritus and from absorbing the hate of the world.

Our duty is to remember them so their place in our lives is one of beauty, even amidst the sadness.

Our duty is to love them boldly, wildly, with every part of our being, and to carry their spirit into the world.

This Sunday is a day for mothers. All mothers.

So please, this year, remember that bereaved mothers are the original meaning behind the Mother's Day club. Please, reach out to one or two and see their child, always loved, always missed.

They have a much harder job than the mothers who do homework, and dishes, and driving, and all-nighters, and cleaning, and laundry, and cooking- and one which will last until they take their final breath on earth.

Perhaps, they are, as mothers go, the most important and hardest working of all mothers.

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© 2020 Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D.