Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May.
But did you know that Bereaved Mother’s Day is the Sunday before that?
- Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate all mothers.
- Bereaved Mother’s Day is dedicated to all those mothers who have lost their children—no matter at what age or stage of development, from miscarriages to the death of an adult child.
May is a hard month for me for a few reasons. It was the month I learned about my first pregnancy. And it was the month I discovered I was miscarrying. A year after that, it was the month I announced my second pregnancy, which ended in stillbirth. And now, nearly two years after Hudson’s death, I have another pregnancy loss to add to my list and my arms are still empty.
But there are also some lovely glimmers of joy in May too.
Last year, on my first Mother’s Day after Hudson died, a few of my friends delivered gifts. They acknowledged me as a mother, and celebrated me even though my babies never lived outside my body. One friend, who bakes and decorates the most amazing cookies, dropped off a set of three Mother’s Day cookies for me—one for each of my angel babies. Another friend brought a card and a little plant, and a big hug.
It’s the little things like this that let a loss-mama know you remember their child, and that you still recognize her for what she is—a mother.
There are so many ways to acknowledge a mother and the baby she lost in miscarriage or stillbirth. Most of them take very little effort, but make a huge impact.
(I am writing from the perspective of a mother who has experienced miscarriage and stillbirth and who has no living children, and for those who want to support the grieving mothers around them. I do not mean to exclude any mothers, and what I say likely applies to all bereaved mothers, no matter what age their child died.)
Here are some simple ways to let the loss-mama in your life know you recognize her as a mother and that you remember her child.
Include her child when you list or count the kids in the family.
When my dad gave the eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral earlier this year, he included my Hudson and mentioned him by name as a great grandchild who had gone ahead of my grandpa to heaven. Most people probably barely noticed the brief mention of a predeceased great grandson. But to me, it was huge to have my child acknowledged.
I have two nephews and a niece from my siblings. When people ask my mom how many grandchildren she has, she tells them she has four. And if they ask for more information, she tells them about her three living grandchildren and about her grandson who was born still.
Say her baby’s name.
Sometimes people try to avoid saying the name of someone who died, as if it reminds the parent that their baby is gone. We know. We will never forget. Our baby is in our thoughts constantly. When I hear my son’s name, I tear up and my heart fills with love. He existed and he mattered. Using his name affirms that. When friends or family say his name, it comforts me to know that he mattered to them too, and that they haven’t forgotten him.
A few months after Hudson died, a friend gave me a scarf she’d made for me. She unfolded it to show me where she had stitched Hudson’s initials. I cherish that scarf and that friend who put in the effort to show her love for my child and for me.
Send her a text about something that reminded you of her child.
Every once in a while I’ll get a text message from someone in my life that simply says, “Just wanted you to know, I was thinking of Hudson today.” Or I’ll get a note from a friend that she’s wearing the sweater I borrowed from her while I was pregnant, and that she calls it her Hudson Sweater. Sometimes a friend will tag me in a photo on Instagram with a heart and a “Made me think of Hudson”.
These little message take almost no time at all, but I find myself going back to read them again and again. They mean more than the senders can imagine.
Acknowledge her as a mother, even if she has no living children.
I’m a mother, and yet I’m not recognized as one by most of society because I have no experience caring for a living child. When a woman announces a pregnancy, people almost immediately start calling her Mama and acknowledging her motherhood. But when that pregnancy ends without the birth of a living baby, they often stop. Please don’t. Please acknowledge her motherhood. She’s still a mother, she just holds her children in her heart instead of in her arms. This is true for fathers too. We might not have living children, but we are still parents.
Thank you for caring enough about your friends and their children to look for ways to encourage them, and for reading this post. Pregnancy loss is a terrible experience. Losing a child at any age is heartbreaking. And the thought that people have forgotten your child makes the heartbreak even worse. But these small actions remind us that we are loved and that our children are, in fact, not forgotten but loved too.