Navigating Mother’s Day After the Loss of a Child (Part 2)

06 MAY 2021

Mother’s Day for mothers who have lost their children can be a painful experience. Lifeline WA’s Grief and Bereavement Counsellor Joyce De Haas and a special friend to Lifeline WA, Collette Wright, explain how family members can share Mother’s Day with grieving mothers.

Advice for Family

For family celebrating the day with a mother who has lost a child, Joyce encourages facing the topic rather than avoiding it. She advises that “many mothers would appreciate the opportunity and would like for someone to say ‘hey remember when…’ and share memories about their child.” Joyce suggests that families often shy away from the topic because they don’t want to hurt anyone, but that “it can be beneficial to bring them up in conversation and acknowledge them so there is no elephant in the room”. Joyce adds that once brought up, mothers can “feel relief not having to ignore the fact that their child is not there”.

Collette shares that unfortunately some family and friends have avoided talking about Nathan in the past. “I know it’s a very hard subject to talk about, but my child existed, as with many others, and therefore they should continue to be included in our lives,” she says. “I want to include him rather than fading out his existence, especially on special days.”

Embracing Relationships

Once everyone is on the same page, Joyce suggests that it can be beneficial for mothers to encourage and allow loved ones to participate in honouring and comforting on Mother’s Day. “It’s healthy to stay connected to your child and to your family. It’s ok to ask family to join in remembering your child and to embrace family relationships,” she advises.

Collette shares her family’s experience after losing Nathan. “One of Nathan’s biggest loves was his little sister Tilly. He absolutely doted on her and when Nathan passed away, Tilly was the strength I needed,” she says. Collette urges mothers to try not to push loved ones away. “I know it’s not easy at the time but give them a thought too. In that time of grief, we often push away the ones closest to us.” After some healing Collette says she realised her family were a great support. “My husband David and all my children were there for me, Gareth, Liam and Tilly,” she says. “Mother’s Day is hard, but again Tilly to the rescue. When she writes my card, she always adds Nathans’s name to it. Likewise, with presents, he is always included.”

Advice from One Mother to Another

Collette provides some advice to newly bereaved mothers this Mother’s Day. “Never be afraid to grieve, no matter what it looks like. Cry your heart out until you can’t cry anymore if that’s what it takes, but please remember that your child is still with you in spirit and within your heart,” she says. Collette reminds mothers to know that the passing of their child is not their fault. “As parents we often believe we’ve failed a loved one, especially a child,” she says. “If you need to talk please each out as there are people to listen and support you.” Collette shares that Lifeline WA has helped her and her family to keep Nathan’s name alive, raise funds and awareness for a cause close to their hearts, and has led to meeting others who have lost loved ones to suicide which has resulted in some very special friendships.

If you would like to join a support group for parents who have lost a child, contact Compassionate Friends or Sands WA.

If you are finding Mother’s Day difficult, for any reason, please call 13 11 14. We are here for you 24/7.

Image Credit: Photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash