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Because family life matters

A mum’s perspective on loss

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A number of mums give us a glimpse into the challenges they’ve faced and things that have helped.

Mums often try to be one step ahead! Who needs new shoes? We plan the holidays, prepare our children for looming school changes and dread preparing for them to leave home.

Our minds are always full of lists and organisation for all the family. After all, that’s our job, isn’t it?

Many mums have that unique bond of having carried their child all those months and spent many hours talking to them and dreaming of the future they would have.

So when our child dies, whether we work outside the home or not, we feel that we have also had our role cruelly robbed from us.

The challenge of facing Mother’s Day

The pain of Mother’s Day can be excruciating. Before adopting her family of five children, Ruth struggled with it for many years whilst facing infertility issues, preferring if possible to work that day instead. Now, following her son’s death, she again finds the day painful but, for the sake of her other children, can’t ignore it. You may find that it helps to split the day into some time with your surviving children and some time for yourself and your thoughts. If they are older it may be helpful to explain to your children the inner conflict that this day brings for you.

So how do you cope with Mother’s Day this year?

For some it can be a helpful time of remembering, taking time to think of and be thankful for our children who no longer live with us. Some have perhaps grown up and now have families of their own, but far more challenging of course is when our children have died and there is no card, no call – just a gap.

Barbara bought some silk anemones to have alongside the cards from her daughters, to remind her of Robert, who died. Sue’s husband Ian bought her a cushion ‘from Sam’ the first Mother’s Day following his death. She has been able to shed many tears onto that cushion.

Other family members can be a challenge. Perhaps as our own mothers or even daughters celebrate their Mother’s Day, they may not totally acknowledge the pain we experience when missing one of our children.

Even husbands don’t always get it right, as Rachel told us. She would really have liked Ethan’s name to be on the card alongside that of her other children. However, she now recognises that communication should perhaps have been better and we can’t assume that others will actually know what we need if we don’t tell them. It can be a very bewildering time for dads and any other children to really understand what we may need. Maybe as mums we need to think ahead, plan a little and let others know how they can best help us.

Friends can be a great support too. Just the acknowledgement that it may be a difficult day helps. Catherine really appreciated friends who just called and took her out for a walk on the first Mother’s Day after Alistair died; it was a helpful distraction. Why not drop hints to friends and encourage them to invite you out for coffee, to be there with you and not avoid you? Friends who will listen over and over again are worth their weight in gold! They can also shield you from situations or people you’re struggling with. But there may be painful times when we hear other mums complaining about their lack of sleep or arguments between siblings and we are left wishing we still had such problems to face.

No matter how short or long our child’s life was, every mum wants to remember their child and be grateful for their life and the memories they have. Photos are wonderful reminders, as are places where special memories were made. Visiting their grave can be a place where many mums find time and space to own their thoughts and emotions for a while away from the busyness of everyday routines. Or maybe you prefer to walk in woodland or on the beach? Try to be kind to yourself and carve out time to regularly be indulgent with memories.

Including our child in everyday life

There are many ways you can weave reminders of your child into the everyday fabric of life. We all use passwords and codes and these can be linked to our children so that we can say their name, favourite food or numbers associated with them every day. When Janet signs cards from all the family, she puts an extra loop like a P for Peter on the tail of the Y in Lucy. Any family can add the number of kisses at the bottom of a card to represent the true number of people in the family.

You always have a mother’s heart and a mother’s love

A mother’s role is to be honoured and valued for all that we do and have done. Whether our children have grown up and left home, whether we have lost our only child or if we’re still daily involved in caring for children at home, whether you are parenting alone or with a partner, stop and recognise the amazing task that you do and say “well done”!

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” – Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

We may not be perfect, but we’ve been the best mum we can to our children. And whether we still have children in our care or not, we will always have a mother’s heart and a mother’s love.