I read her story this week – a mom’s story of giving up her baby for adoption – and the tears wouldn’t stop. Partly because the memory’s still clear of the last moment with our girls’ birth mom. I wanted so much to help her as she left the courtroom. To help her through the grief we were all experiencing.
Everything our daughters knew changed that day. They lost the mom they’d known well and had me instead, a woman they’d only known a year. I knew I’d never fully be “mom” to them, and as a first time mom that broke my heart. And D was angry at herself for the choices she’d made which pushed her own kids out of her life. Everyone was grieving that morning.
It all came back while reading this other birth mom’s story. The hurt and confusion she carries, and the conflict that lives in her heart. While I could never presume to know the depth or detail of her struggle, I know what it is to grieve as mom.
This question remains: what does a birth mom – or any grieving mom – do with Mother’s Day?
Does she take the carnation handed out to moms at church?
Does she let herself cry while other glowing women talk of Mother’s Day breakfast in bed from their preschoolers?
Does she succumb to grief and hide under her duvet, shrinking back from the world for a season?
As a woman who has known grief too, my answer is…. yes.
Yes, you take the flower. It’s yours because you carried a child within you, perhaps even did your best to raise them afterward. You are a mom and the flower is yours to enjoy.
Yes, you cry. Probably at moments nobody else totally understands. And you notice your feelings – all of them – giving them permission to be there and to reflect your life and history. You are not just the you of today, you have a context, and if crying honors a part of you, then give yourself permission to do that.
Yes, you sometimes hide under the duvet. Denial is a normal part of grief. So is depression. Allowing yourself to go through phases of ignoring your grief so you can move on and live fully today… that’s a healthy thing to do. So’s the occasional hiding in depression. When your body recalls the loss you’ve had – the life you grew inside and may no longer cradle – it feels it. So notice that and allow it to be there too, when it needs to be.
It’s okay to hurt
It’s okay to miss them
It’s okay to think about them
It’s okay to love them
It’s okay to wish it was different
To grieve… yell… cry… hurt… wonder how they’re doing… feel bad….
Or to not feel bad. To smile. To love. To breathe. To dream again. To have friendships. To have a family. To live fully.
As my Mother’s Day gift to you, a fellow mom, here are some ways that have helped me get through the grief:
Words and Writing
- Journal your thoughts and feelings.
- Write to your child, even if they won’t receive the letter. Tell them of your dreams for their life. Or tell them you’re sorry for how things happened. Or just about your day.
- Draw a picture of a memory you have with them, or of what you imagine them to look like today. Or of how you feel when you think about them.
Thoughts and Images
- Visualize: The mind can change how we remember things, like when you wake from a bad dream and correct the ending to calm down. Use that to heal your memories of this.
- Visualize a better parting, if yours was strained
- Visualize you now in a room with you then, and tell your younger self that she’s forgiven – that it’s okay to release the guilt.
Body and Movement
- Get outside. Breathe deeply the fresh air, the sunshine, the spring scents around you.
- Walk, run, skip, hike, swim…. go to the park and swing. Just get moving. The endorphins that result take the edge off our big feelings.
- Even better, get moving with a friend who listens and supports you.
Spirit and Prayer
- Join a grief group
- Notice and release feelings of guilt. The noticing is powerful because it gives our feelings respect and often makes them less overwhelming.
- Forgive yourself, your situation, life, God, and everyone else who may not have seemed to be there when the decision occurred.
- Give yourself permission to move on.
- Pray for your child – that the life they have would be blessed, and a blessing to others.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of ideas. What has helped you in seasons of grief in your own life? To leave a comment, click here.
Wherever you find your heart this week, if you are or ever have been a mom, may this Mother’s Day be a celebration of all you’ve given and all the ways you’ve loved.