A Mother’s Grief
Grieving is a personal experience. Depending on who you are and the nature of your loss, your process of grieving will be different from another person’s. There is no “normal and expected” period of time for grieving. Some people take a year or more, particularly when their daily life has been radically changed by traumatic and unexpected loss.
On May 10, 2011, I lost my remarkable son Anthony to a tragic accident. He was 23 years old. I am writing this only two months after this horrifying experience.
Words cannot describe the immense pain felt by a parent who loses a child. As a bereaved parent, you realize that your life will never be the same … never. Your life has suddenly taken an unexpected course that appears and feels unknown, unsure and endless; that is called grief.
There are some wonderful support groups for parents. I attended my first one just three weeks after Anthony’s death. It’s called Compassionate Friends. The people here are experiencing the same type of pain that I am, although our journeys are different.
I realize that my tears are a way to be gentle and loving to myself and they should be honored as precious tender drops of love and remembrance of my son Anthony. Really feeling all this pain is the first step in the grieving process and my way through the first 12 months. Until the pain is felt deeply, with every moment and the loss is truly acknowledged, it is not possible to move on to celebrating the life of your loved one. So with that being expressed, I let the tears come.
The grieving process gives us time to reflect and find new strength that enables us to continue life’s journey and regain some peace of mind. I have recognized that grieving and its stresses seem tolerable, with loving self-care habits. It helps to have a close circle of loving family and friends. It also helps to have proper nourishment for your body — a nutritious, balanced diet with plenty of raw vegetables, plenty of nourishing water and non-alcoholic fluids, exercise or some type of movement for the body and plenty of rest. I’ve learned to not say I can’t do something because of this traumatic, awful life experience … this is not easy, but it is a necessity.
Most people are unprepared for grief because so often, tragedy strikes suddenly, without warning. If excellent loving self-care habits are part of your life, it will help you deal with the pain and shock of loss until the last stage of grief, which is acceptance, is reached. I am walking the path on this journey and not sure where it will take me, but one thing that is clear in my mind is that loving others and myself is the only path I can walk down, knowing I am not alone.
Some supportive suggestions and thoughts
Birthdays are a celebration of the day your child became a precious gift to the world. My son’s birthday, June 16, was five weeks after his death. My family and I did several things to honor him and help our healing.
1. Light a candle: A mother’s bond of love with her child can never be broken. Lighting a candle on my son’s birthday was very healing. I used a battery-operated candle to illuminate the entire day.
2. Attend a religious service on your child’s birthday: We did this, and it was also very healing.
3. Celebrate: My daughter Sarah and I recently set aside special time on Anthony’s birthday. We got on the Internet/webcam and made his favorite dessert together. My parents and sister’s family (both out of state) had a special dinner together with a birthday cake for Anthony.
Traditionally a day of celebration, Mother’s Day can be a day of pain and loss for mothers who have lost a child. Below are some tips for remembering those moms who have had an unsuccessful pregnancy or have lost a child of any age.
1. Acknowledge that she is a mother: Offer a hug and kiss, and wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Send a card to let her know you remember she’s a mother, even though her child is not physically with her. A mother’s bond of love with her child can never be broken.
2. Acknowledge her loss: Express/connect and share the message, “I know this is difficult day for you. I want you to know that I am thinking about you.”
3. Use her child’s name in conversation: When family and friends talk about my son, Anthony, it’s like music to my ears. I love talking, listening and sharing special moments with others.
4. Plant a living memorial: A perennial flower, tree or rose bush — like memories — will grow in beauty.
5. Light a candle: Let the mother know you will light a candle in memory of her child.
6. Share a memory or pictures of the child: Give the gift of a memory. One mother wrote that the “greatest gift you can give is a heartfelt letter about my child and a favorite memory of them.”
7. Don’t try to minimize the loss: Avoid using any clichés that attempt to explain the death of a child.
8. Encourage self-care: Self-care is an important aspect of the effort to heal the mind and spirit. Encourage a grieving mother to take care of herself. Give her a gift certificate to a day spa or any place where she can be pampered. Right after Anthony’s death, it took all my energy simply to shower and put on mascara.
While the above suggestions are intended for Mother’s Day, they can be helpful for grieving mothers any day of the year.
My love goes out to all women who experience this pain. We are connected, and we are loved.
Robin Legittino is a certified holistic nutritional consultant and NASM-certified personal trainer. She served in the United States Marine Corps and is the mother of two children and the grandmother of one.