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Mother's Day celebrates mothers all around the world, but there are many women who may feel left out on the day. They may have experienced the death of a baby or babies, or even of adult children. They may have struggled to become pregnant, or had a miscarriage or stillbirth. For them, the day may bring sad feelings—feelings of isolation, loneliness, unworthiness, and pain.
Anna Jarvis founded Mother's Day in 1908 and dedicated it to her mother Ann. Ann gave birth to about a dozen children, and only four of them survived into adulthood. So, the first mother honored on Mother's Day was a bereaved mother, and Mother's Day is connected to a story of loss—a story that many mothers have experienced. The hurt of their loss is most intense on Mother's Day.
Carly Marie Dudley created International Bereaved Mother's Day in 2010, a few years after the loss of her stillborn son Christian. She wanted to help heal the hearts of other hurting mothers. She believed that Mother's Day should include all those who have experienced loss, as well as those who have been unable to conceive. The goal of the day is to change Mother's Day so that it includes those who feel left out of it. Dudley wants International Bereaved Mother's Day to be a temporary holiday, and for the hurting mothers to eventually become a part of Mother's Day.
Although International Bereaved Mother's Day takes place a week before Mother's Day, in many respects it is observed on Mother's Day, with the goal of including bereaved mothers in the day. International Bereaved Mother's Day and Mother's Day should be observed by acknowledging those women in your life who have experienced the loss of a child, or who have had difficulty conceiving. They deserve recognition and love just like other mothers. Listen to their stories if they wish to share, and don't be afraid to speak their child's name. Many people think that they shouldn't bring up the name of a lost child, as it will remind a mother what happened. But, a child who is no longer on this earth is never far from a mother's mind. Mothers often don't want their child to be forgotten, so bringing up a child's name may be a gift to a mother.
You could honor the child of a friend or family member by doing something in their memory. Plant a tree for the child, or give a tree to the mother to plant in their honor. You could give the mother memorial jewelry with the child's name on it, or jewelry with love hearts if the baby was never named. You could also donate to a charity in honor of the person you know and their child.
If you have suffered the loss of a child, spend the day doing things to comfort yourself and things you enjoy. If that means being with others today or on Mother's Day then do that; if it means not going to a Mother's Day gathering do that. Do whatever feels right for you. If you need to seek out support, whether from family, friends, those online who have had similar experiences, or professionally, do so; it is a healthy part of the healing process. You can also remember and pay tribute to your child in some way. Do something in their honor, or make a special place in your house where they are remembered.
Kristen Samuelson, SBD, Founder & Director