Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bereaved Mothers: The hardest job of all


It's almost Mother's Day of 2012.

A day for mothers. Tall mothers, short mothers, dark-skinned mothers, fair-skinned mothers, funny mothers, serious mothers, mothers with blonde hair and dark hair, curly and straight. Mothers who are emotional and nurturing and mothers who are an Aurelian-brand of stoic. 

Mothers of living children and mothers of dead children. 

There is nothing more painful in this world than facing day after endless day without your child in it. What could possibly be harder? Everything is changed- colors, textures, sounds, feelings. Us. We are changed.

Bereaved mothers look into the mirror and face a stranger. Who is this woman now? This woman without her child? How will she make it through this day, this hour, this moment? 

The truth about being a bereaved mother is that it is exhausting. We cry until our tears become leather. Night after night, we beg God or Jehovah or Yahweh or Allah or Mother Earth for just one more day with our children. We cannot find our keys or our toothbrush or our parked car or our hearts. We strive to uncover the "why" but there are no good answers to those countless questions which taunt us and eventually collect webs in the backs of our minds.

And bereaved motherhood comes with many more sleepless nights than one could imagine as our arms burn to hold our children, our eyes cry out to see them, our ears mislead us toward voices which do not exist, and our legs carry us, repeatedly, toward their empty, lonely rooms.

No, being a mother to a child who died is no easy burden. It is the hardest job of all.

Our lives are a unique juxtaposition between two worlds, life and death and between two states of being: incredible, immeasurable sadness balanced against the will and pressure to live again and find joy.


It is a world where we often have to defend the dignity of our dead, protect their memory, and advocate for our right to feel...

It is a world where we go to bed at night secretly wishing we wouldn't awaken. It is a world where primal mourning takes over our bodies and our hearts feel as if they've been systematically excavated leaving a gaping, open wound in our core. It is a world where we are judged for our tears, and where we fear for the lives of those we love with an unfamiliar panic. It is a world of searching and yearning and pining for far longer than the world would allow, and incessantly seeking reminders of our children in the eyes of other children for a glimpse into what-should-have-been.

It's a wretched and indescribable longing which so many cannot begin to comprehend because they tuck their own children into bed at night, and they hug all their children on Mother's Day, and they are utterly, thankfully ignorant of this experience.


Nothing quenches the longing in our hearts for our children who died. Nothing. And this is how it should be. The place in our hearts- the one which belongs to our beloved child- is theirs and theirs alone. Our duty is to honor that place, to keep it free from detritus and from absorbing the hate of the world.  Our duty is to remember them so their place in our lives is one of beauty, a beauty beyond the material.

Our duty is to love them boldly, wildly, with every part of our being, and to carry their spirit into the world.

This Sunday is a day for mothers. All mothers. So please, this year, remember that bereaved mothers are part of the Mother's Day club.  Please, reach out to one or two and see their child, always loved, always missed. 

They have a much harder job than the mothers who do homework, and dishes, and driving, and all-nighters, and cleaning, and laundry, and cooking- and one which will last until they take their final breath on earth. Perhaps, they are, as mothers go, the most important and hardest working of all.

Your name is upon my lips
your image is in my eye;
the memory of you is in my heart...

-Rumi


This post is dedicated to the many brave and tireless mothers and families of the MISS Foundation I know, admire, and love. Happy and Gentle Mother's Day from my heart to yours.

27 comments:

Michelle said...

What a beautiful piece... Thank you.

Catherine Lux said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you for reading. (((Cx))) I'm sorry. My heart feels heavy with the pain of so many mothers around the world...

Joey C Johnson said...

You always seem to write the words in my heart in the most beautiful way. Crying for the first time in awhile and it feels so good! MISSing my Jack with your Chey <3 Thank you Jo!

Jennifer McCarthy said...

Beautiful & so very true.

yvettealva said...

Thank you for this.

Sara Maurer said...

This is so very beautiful..and eye opening.

Wyatt's Mommie said...

Thank you for this touching post. Just when I needed something the most, your words came to show me my feelings at this time of year are perfectly normal. Thank you!!

Tina Aye said...

"I had seen birth and death but had thought they were different".
~T.S.Eliot~
(((all brave bereaved mothers)))

T

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your hearts here. I wish no mother had to endure this holiday in the absence of her child/children... <3

Jasmyns Dad said...

Excellent article. As a grieving father I really hate holidays now and Mothers Day, for me, is the worst. I worry about my wife because of the grief we suffer and Mothers Day is especially hard on her.
My oldest daughter Jasmyn died at age 12 on November 7, 2010. I was deployed with the USAF when this happened and ever since, life has become a meaningless chore. I am only functional because i have my youngest daughter to raise and she needs her mommy and daddy. Without my younger daughter, I don't think I would have made it this far.
Thank you for recognizing us. There are no words to describe this living nightmare, but it is comforting that there are persons such as yourself who try to understand us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. It is beautiful and touching. MISS my boys so very much!

LaTonya said...

What a wonderful post. Everything was so perfectly said!

Syrena said...

Your words always speak what my heart feels but I can't never seem to get the words to come out clear. Perfectly said, Jo!

Sarah said...

Thank you. It is so painful and yet validating to read this. I feel less alone. My heart aches for my beautiful Mia every minute. You're right though; it is a split existence. My heart is both fully with her and with my son left here on Earth. It hurts so much to try to continue when you are so horribly divided. Thank you.

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you everyone for reading and for allowing this to touch your hearts.

onewomansperspective02 said...

Thank you for writing this excellent article. Mother's Day is really hard for those of us who have had children die. For me, I just want to go under the radar and skip the day entirely. Yes, I am still a mother - to my son who died, to my son and daughter who still live, to the baby I miscarried at 19 weeks - but somehow it just hurts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a beautiful post. My heart yearns my babygirl and this will be my first mothers day since she passed, all I can do is cry. Thank you for making me feel normal when I'm here, because everyone else in the outside world doesn't understand.

Amelia's Mom said...

Thank you Dr. Jo for your powerful words that only a fellow aching momma could write. This is my second Mother's day, second Sad Mother's day. I never had a happy one... It is so true how you said we do the hardest work of all. I'd trade this crying and longing for diapers and feedings in a flash.

Sending all other hurting mothers love and strength.

Alena,
Amelia's mom

Kristin said...

Thank you so much for this post - it touched my heart. I just lost my baby girl 2 weeks ago - this will be my first Mother's Day. So difficult to explain the loss and grief I feel and the need to protect her memory...you captured it perfectly.
Kristin
Allison Eve's Mom

Katie Romero said...

My heart is breaking reading this and all of your posts. I will be thinking of not just my dear friend who is going through this, but all the aching mothers this mother's day. Love you, Sarah, and sweet little Mia.

Unknown said...

Yes, being a bereaved mother is most definately THE hardest, most challenging, most draining job in the world! I want to wish all bereaved Moms a Mother's Day full of memories (even though I know we all want more than memories). I know that I will be surrounded by the love of my daughters on earth and by my son who is in heaven. They are all three with me daily, especially tomorrow. Let yourself be pampered and take it easy. I choose to honor my sons life by living it the way he would want me to and that is an accomplishment in itself, being able to do that.

Anonymous said...

If it did not hurt it would be as if my son Zack never existed. So I accept the pain as part of my love for him. As I do all my children.

Devon Garza said...

I hope this day goes as well as it possibly can for you, and all other bereaved parents out there. Thank you all for showing an immense amount of love, and I hope you get one smidgen of that back from kind, caring, sensitive people today. Happy Mother's Day, Dr. Jo

Cynthia said...

On Mother's day I get cards from my children, my "four who walk" and I re-read my cards from my "one who soars". One card from my Seth when he was two, ironically says "no matter where you go, or what you do, I'll always be there" and the other is signed "love from your little boy forever, Seth". Of course written by daddy since Seth was just a baby.
I do cherish these cards and yes through the tears I managed a painful smile.....
Thank you for sharing your profound insight.
Blessings!

Dr. Joanne Cacciatore said...

Thank you to the new readers and poster, and especially for those so newly bereaved moms who hurt so very, very much and yet are brave enough to explore their own grief -- and share with others. I'm so sorry...

Beth said...

exactly, exactly right.

Becoming...

""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
The soul still sings in the darkness telling of the beauty she found there; and daring us not to think that because she passed through such tortures of anguish, doubt, dread, and horror, as has been said, she ran any the more danger of being lost in the night. Nay, in the darkness did she, rather, find herself.

--St. John, Dark Night of the Soul


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