Mother’s Day – it’s the advertisers dream when we are surrounded by pictures of happy kids bringing their mum breakfast in bed, cards, chocolates, their favourite perfume and flowers. What a beautiful image as the mum kisses and cuddles her kids, smiles and laughs as she begins her day.
But what if that’s not you? What if –like me – you are a bereaved mother or if your own mother is no longer with you. How do you cope with the happiest day of the year for mothers?
I remember two mothers’ days in my life that were extremely difficult. The first one was in 1998, four months after my wonderful mother in law had been knocked down and killed as she crossed the road outside her house. I remember standing in the card shop looking at the mother’s day cards trying to choose one for my own mum. I was overcome by a black raging cloud that engulfed me – the emotion of the previous months burst like a dam and I recall running from the shop weeping. It was a real low point for my husband and his siblings, especially my sister in law who had recently become a new mum herself.
The second mother’s day that was even worse was in 2008, six months after my son Calum had died aged 12 from meningitis. I recall going to his grave, to give him flowers instead of him bringing me some. I remember thinking how could I celebrate Mother’s Day again? I was very grateful to have my daughter Kirsten but the grief and loss of my son exploded in full combat style that day. It was brutal, real heartache – the pain in my heart was physical. I grieved hard for several days – weeping, cuddling Calum’s clothes, retreating from the world.
It was also the point at which I understood I needed to care for myself, if I didn’t then I would be no use to anyone and my husband Sinclair and daughter Kirsten needed me. Many of you will know that I am an experienced NLP (neuro linguistic programming) practitioner – I had used many of the techniques on myself already to help me cope with the trauma, to shift the images that were in my head of the tragic events that led to Calum’s death. But we all need help from others and I turned to my trusted friend and NLP professional Liesha to help me. Together we let go of guilt and sadness that was overwhelming me and created a gentle route towards a happier time in my life. I wasn’t over Calum’s death but I had released the really difficult emotions that threatened to keep me stuck in a difficult phase of grief.
Mother’s days did get easier (like all special events and celebration days) and now as I face the 7th one without him I am grateful for Calum’s life, for being his mum and I keep both my children connected to me through their love.
I do this by writing to Calum – I started it just after he died and have filled several journals now. I write about my days, sharing our family life with him and sometimes I “hear” him laugh at the stories and even reply!
I happily talk about my son with family and friends, we share the memories and the good times. I have a memory quilt that celebrates his life and I love to look at this and think about what each panel represents – his interests, his friends, the stories and family traditions that he was part of and the very essence that made him the wonderful son he was. I continue to raise awareness of meningitis and fundraise for Meningits Now but I focus more on Calum’s life than on what caused his death.
On Mother’s Day I will bring out one of the cards that he made me and place it proudly beside the one that Kirsten gives me. I am proud to be the mother of two children – one who is now a beautiful teenager and another who is in spirit.
We will also remember my wonderful mother in law with a smile and share a story about her.
If you are dreading Mother’s Day I send my love to you, if you are deep in grief then let it flow you will come out the other side. Acknowledge the loss but also find some time to remember the joy that you had with your child or your mother in your life. A few minutes of joy can lift your spirits and give you hope.
If you are looking for more suggestions on coping with loss or grief, you can read more of my journey in my book From Heartbreak toHappiness. I have had such wonderful letters from people telling me that my book has really given them hope that they too can cope and feel happier.
To mothers everywhere I wish you peace, good health, love and happiness, so take some time for you and recognise how wonderful you are.