Mother’s Day 2021

Dear friends,

I want to offer you all a bit of encouragement today. Mother’s Day can be a tough day for many women. Women who wanted to be a mother and couldn’t, women who lost a mother, women who are grieving the death of one or more of their children, women who have children, but are estranged from them, women who are trying and waiting to become a mother. And the list goes on.

I lost my mother when I was 10 back in 1976. Mother’s Day has always been a tough one for me. As a nurse I always volunteered to work that day, or later in my career to take call for the new mom’s so they could spend the day with their new babies and families without fear of the day being interrupted. I stopped going to worship services because the obligatory sermon on Mother’s and the Proverbs 31 wife/mother was more than I could take. I have learned over the years that I get to choose how I spend the day.

Mother’s Day 2016 I choose to hike in the Grand Canyon. I started at 5:00 AM from the south rim. Hiked to the Colorado River and back out. Finishing at 7:00 PM. It was a gorgeous day and a gorgeous way to spend the day. I had no idea how different my life was to become. My oldest son passed away November 27, 2016. Had I known that it would be my last Mother’s Day with him alive would I do life differently? Perhaps. I am grateful that I didn’t know what was to come. I would have been in all out panic mode trying to change what was to come.

My son was a 911 dispatcher with a huge heart. He would probably have volunteered, and perhaps he did, to work for a coworker so she could spend the day with her children. I honestly don’t recall any more. Our lives will continue to change. If our children were still here perhaps they would have children of their own. Perhaps they’d have a job where they work weekends, perhaps they would have moved away and our Mother’s Day would look totally different. That is the way life is. And, thankfully, we don’t know the changes that are to come.

I want you all to know that even if your children are living in Heaven and not here on earth you are still their mother. You still deserve a special day of doing what you want to do. You get to choose how you spend the day. Some of you may be so new to this life that you don’t want to do anything special. That is ok. Some of you may choose to make yourself a special meal or go out for one. That is ok. You might decide to go hike the Grand Canyon, or go on a long walk or bike ride, or head to the beach. Whatever you decide to do for the day is ok. You might not want to gather with family or friends. You might find you need the comfort of being with people who understand and get you. That is ok too.

I wish for you all a peace and a day full of doing whatever it is you choose to do. On days when the memories come rushing in and I can’t stop them I may go to photos or videos and just cry for a bit and tell my son that I love him. I look for signs from him that tell me he loves me too.

Some of you might not believe in signs and that is ok. I personally, have a collection of coins, feathers and heart shaped rocks that always seem to show up when I need them most. I see a yellow butterfly and I say hi to my mom. I see an eagle and say hi to my son. I believe that our loved ones and our children can see us and send us signs that they are ok.

For a couple of years after Mike died I longed for someone to show up at my door with a child to tell me that it was Mike’s child so that I would still have a piece of him here on earth. It was my mother’s heart just wanting a bit of him. But as the years have ticked by that fantasy has faded.

As you do Mother’s Day in whatever way you choose to do it. Know whatever you decide to do for yourself this weekend is ok. It is your choice to celebrate, or not. Know it is ok to have your own back and do whatever you feel is comfortable for you. And it is ok to try out different things and different ways of getting through the tough days. You get to choose.

I wish for you a day of peace and good memories.

XOXO,

Mike’s mom

Robin

This little robin has been at this window for weeks. He flies away only to return. He sees himself in the window and flies at it and hits himself in the chest/head. As I sit working in the room next door I hear the thumps as he repeatedly flies in to the window. He will fly away but always seems to return the same bush and the same window and the cycle continues.

As I thought about this bird my first thought was he wasn’t very bright. One would think he would eventually realize that the bird in the window was himself and he would stop flying in to the window. Myself and my cats have gotten a kick out of watching him fail repeatedly. I thought what a dumb little bird. He doesn’t realize how utterly stupid he is.

Then I thought that little bird is a lot like me. For the last 4 years I was doing the same thing every night. I was sad and depressed and wanted to escape my reality. I would drink wine to numb and forget my reality. I wasn’t really expecting different results I was just not wanting to have to face life and reality of living without one of my children. I would drink wine to escape and forget about life for awhile. I kept coming back to the same thing night after night. Just like the robin keeps coming back to my window.

I would come to the same conclusions over and over again. I must have done something wrong. I must have been a lousy mother. It was my fault. Over and over I would blame myself. Like the robin I kept coming back over and over again to try to catch the bird in the window. My thoughts kept returning and coming up with the same thoughts. I was in a cycle of beating myself up, feeling lousy and drinking wine to escape hoping to wake up to a new reality, or at the very least to escape from the reality I was in .

Then one day I discovered that I wanted to figure out how to live again. I wanted to stop the numbing and trying to escape. I slowly was coming out of the fog, and I wanted to learn how to see in color again. I found a life coach and learned to feel my feelings and process those feelings. I learned it’s ok to be sad and angry even. I learned that I am in control of what I think and my thoughts drive my actions. I learned to love myself and to stop the insanity of the nightly over drinking. With the help of some very brave women I am learning how to live again.

This morning as I sat hearing the thud, thud, thud of the little bird against the window I again thought how very much this little bird is like me. . I thought today that the little robin keeps failing again and again. Yet he comes back gets up spreads his wings and tries again. Just like I am learning to do.

What I am learning is it is ok to fail. It is an opportunity for growth. When I fail I have learned to evaluate and find the reason why I failed and to figure out what to do differently next time. I get to choose how I respond. I can either respond with self loathing and feeling crappy or I can respond with self love and tenderness and give myself the grace I so often extend to others, but not to myself. I have to learn to keep breathing and processing and trying again.

I have learned to listen for my little friend. I have learned to love him and I am rooting for him to keep on trying.

International Bereaved Mother’s Day

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Sunday May 2, 2021 is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. A day set aside for the all of the grieving mom’s out there. I had no idea this day existed until I became a bereaved mother. To all the bereaved mother’s out there I give you my admiration, my love, and my best wishes for a day that lets you honor and cherish the memories of your child(ren).

My thoughts on bereaved motherhood

  • You are still a mother. Your child may not live here on earth but you are still a mother. Count your child living in Heaven when you share the number of children you have
  • You are brave. Bereaved mom’s are some of the bravest women I know. It takes a lot of bravery to get out of bed and to continue to function. You know others are counting on you and you somehow find the strength and the courage to keep on moving forward.
  • You are strong. So often I hear “you are so strong” and often I don’t feel strong. The truth is none of us were given a choice. We have to keep moving forward for our families and those who are counting on us
  • You have a story to share. Keep your child’s memories alive. Don’t be afraid to talk about him/her. This is your day to cherish your memories and share their story.
  • You are amazing. You get up every day and you keep moving forward in the midst of heartache, pain and anguish.
  • You are beautiful
  • You are loved.

So cherish your memories, share your story. Celebrate you however you choose to this weekend. Some bereaved mother’s will pull out ultrasound pictures and the few photos and moments they have.to look at them. Some bereaved mother’s will go to the graveside of their child and take flowers. Some bereaved mother’s might go to the scene of the accident and put flowers on a cross. Some bereaved mother’s might be to raw and to new to do anything and that is perfectly ok. Each one of has our own unique journey. There is no blueprint for grieving. You choose what you can and can’t handle and when you are ready you will know what the right thing is.

I have never liked Mother’s Day. My own mother died when I was 10 and it’s always been a tough day for me. I gave up going to church on Mother’s Day. It was too much for me to sit and listen to all the mother stories and see all the mother’s and generations of families sharing the day together. Even as a mother I struggled with Mother’s Day. It was never a day I wanted to celebrate. And I learned over the years I wasn’t the only “motherless daughter” who felt that way. I eventually came to the realization that I as a mother I could choose to do what I wanted on that day. And when I became a bereaved mother and learned there was an International Bereaved Mother’s Day I learned that I have the choice to do what I want on that day as well. I get to choose how I remember my son and I get to choose what to do that day.

Whatever you decide to do this weekend. Celebrate you and remember your children. I wish you peace and happiness and above all love. Be kind. Be gentle, and be loving to yourself.

Nothing is the same

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When Mike died I became someone entirely different. I was no longer the same mom, friend, sister, daughter, girlfriend I was before. Believe it or not in some ways I am better than I was prior to Mike’s passing. You might not see it now but one day you will look back and realize you are not the same person you were before your child died. You will realize in some ways you are more aware and more tolerant and believe it or not a better you than you were before..

I now know that life can change in the 10 seconds it takes to answer a phone or open a door. I love a bit more deeply and forgive more freely. In my head I knew none of us was guaranteed tomorrow, but you never really KNOW it until you go through the unthinkable. I have also found I know what is important in life and I don’t get caught up in the bullshit of life. When coworkers and friends begin to complain about schedules, or politics, and stuff that I don’t consider important I walk away. In the past I might have gotten caught up in the gossip, and the complaints, and joined in. Now, I am more likely to give someone the benefit of the doubt. When people are miserable or cranky and rude I am not so quick to judge or react. I am more likely to ask how I can help or what I can do. I have learned is everyone has a chapter in their book that they don’t read out loud.

I have found out what is important and I have found I need to make time for my family and my friends. No one has ever said “I should have spent more time in the office.” I have learned it is ok to say “no”. I have learned to prioritize and I have learned it is ok to focus on me and to take care of my needs. I learned that I was not indispensable and as important as I thought I was. My work could figure out and did figure out how to go on without me. I found out it was ok to take care of me, because I am not good to anyone else if I am burned out and fatigued.

It isn’t an automatic transition to this place. It takes awhile until you are ready to shift and change your thinking. I remember in the early years being with a family member who was sad (and rightly so) that her daughter was not coming home for Christmas. She had a fiancĂ© and holidays would need to be divided between both families. As I was listening to her what I wanted to say was “Be happy at least your daughter is alive and you can talk to her any time you want.” Those feelings are normal and they are ok. Somedays you just can’t stop it. You hear the words popping out of your mouth. I personally think that is ok. It can lead to communication and honest heartfelt talks about your feelings, hopes, and thoughts. To bury our thoughts and hold it all in is detrimental to our mental and physical health.

The first time I laughed after Mike died I felt horrible. How could I laugh when my son was gone? But I have found it is ok to laugh. It is ok to have fun. It is ok to live. I love sharing Mike stories. He was a goofball. There are lots of great stories to tell about his short life. I still love hearing his stories from his friends. I really like the ones that start with “Mike said never to tell his mom this……………..” And I laugh and I cry at times and I can hear his laugh in their laughs and it makes me happy that he isn’t forgotten. Life can get easier and it can be good again.

I highly recommend keeping a journal of your thoughts and feelings. Writing is very helpful and therapeutic. . If you aren’t a writer and the thought of writing long entries is too much. You can use bullet points and lists of feelings and thoughts you are having. There is something therapeutic about writing and getting the stuff our of your head and on to paper. But as you are writing I want you also to write 3 positive things that happened that day as well. In the beginning it might be that “I got up and got dressed today.” or “I remembered to eat before 5 pm.”. In the beginning I considered it a successful day if I remembered to change my underwear every day.

I am sending you all lots of love and hugs. Time doesn’t not heal all wounds. But you will learn to live and to laugh again. I wish peace for all of you.

Supporting a grieving parent

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I can’t tell you how many times I read “you are in my prayers call if you need anything.” The truth is I probably wrote those very words many times over the years. The truth is a grieving parent has no clue what they need let alone the energy to ask for it. So I created this list of ways you can support your loved one when they are grieving the lost of their child.

  • show up. Bring a bowl of soup or a pizza.
  • Stick around wipe down the kitchen or bathroom. Just don’t clean our child’s room or wash their clothes unless we ask you to.
  • Sit with us if we can’t talk.
  • Talk about our child. Let us know he/she isn’t forgotten.
  • Call and leave a message so we know you called if we just can’t answer the phone
  • text to check in and ask how we are doing.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about our child. We haven’t forgotten. You won’t be reminding us of anything.
  • If you never met our child ask about him/her. We love to talk about our children.
  • Send pictures or videos you may have of our child.
  • Invite us out for a walk or coffee. We might not accept, but we like to be asked.
  • Know there are 2 days a year that we need a break. No matter how many years have passed the anniversary of our child’s passing and their birthday will bring strong emotional reactions. Be kind and gentle. Send us a text, a card, a message, flowers. Let us know you haven’t forgotten. Ask how we are doing.
  • Know you can’t fix us. Simply love us as we are.

What to say:

  • I am sorry.
  • I care.
  • I am here for you.
  • Tell me about your child.
  • I don’t know how you feel but I am here and I care.
  • My favorite story about your child is………….
  • Nothing just sit with us.

What not to say:

  • Time heals all wounds.
  • Everything happens for a reason.
  • I know just how you feel (unless you too have lost a child).
  • God needed another angel.
  • You can have other children.
  • Be thankful you have other child(ren).
  • It will get easier
  • God doesn’t give us anymore than we can handle.
  • Let me know if you need anything.
  • You are so strong.
  • I don’t know how you do it.
  • I could never do it.
  • It’s time to put this behind you.

Loving someone who has lost a child might mean you have to change plans or accept there are sometimes we simply don’t have the energy to show up at family gatherings, or we may choose to leave early when a situation is overwhelming. If we say “I need to leave or I just can’t do it today.” Just accept us as we are. Don’t try to talk us in to anything. Give us a bit of space and time then call to say check in and let us know we were missed.

Know things like family weddings, funerals, Christmas gatherings, and baby showers will always be tough. It will bring up the emotions that we might not be able to handle. It doesn’t mean we aren’t happy for you or that we don’t love you. Know we care, but if our emotions are raw and tender we might need to arrive late or leave early.

Please don’t give up on us. Just love us and know we are doing the best we can.