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The Silent Mothers: Coping After the Loss of a Child

Yesterday was the day that we celebrate mothers. All mothers, right? I wish that were true, but it’s not — I can tell you from experience.

This weekend, there was a mother that is not celebrated. Trust me, I know; my daughter died almost three and a half years ago.

I was not ignored on my first Mother’s Day — my daughter had passed less than four months before, and I was still deep in the fog of my grief. My friends and family surrounded the shell of what I used to be and held me together. Without this support, I don’t know that I would have made it through the weekend. Quite honestly, I think I spent Sunday in bed, drowning in my broken-heartedness. My family, though, took turns calling me throughout the day and made sure I was able to keep my head above water, so to speak.

However, with each passing year, the support has tapered off, and I feel that I am now amongst the other forgotten mothers. It feels as if everyone has expected me to move on and behave like Mother’s Day no longer applies to me.

From the outside, I appear to be childless. No one hears from me about parent-teacher conferences or potty training. They don’t notice that I didn’t get macaroni art or hand-picked flowers from the front yard this year.

I’m struggling to stay composed while other parents gush about their sweet kids. I’m the mother, a forgotten mother, who is about to lose it when she hears someone complain about crushed up pasta on the floor from craft time, or about the fragile tulips picked unceremoniously out of the garden.

Every year on the second Sunday in May, people who know mostly act awkward, or, even worse, pretend like everything is normal. When faced with a parent who lost her child, I’ve found that people are afraid to say the wrong thing, or afraid that they might make us cry. Here’s what I wish I could say: I probably will cry, but not for the reason you think. This mother will cry in relief because you haven’t forgotten that she is a mother.

Regardless of how much time passes, the truth is that I’ll never get used to not having my daughter. It feels like the world has forgotten her, like she was never here, and each May it stings a little more. I’ve come to accept the “new normal” that is life after my daughter’s death. I am no longer the puddle of grief that I once was. However, this doesn’t mean you should pretend that it didn’t happen — that she didn’t happen.

I know I’m not the only childless mother this year. If you know one, please don’t be afraid to make that woman cry. I promise it will mean more to her than you realize. — Kelli Mears

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