How do we celebrate Mother’s Day? Brunches with fresh fruit and quiche and tulip centerpieces. Flowerpots overflowing with begonias to be planted. Ceramic handprint trinkets made for Mama. Cute little photos of cute little faces placed carefully in the center of heart-shaped paintings, kept in a folder to look at years later when the kids are all grown up.
Yet, there’s another side to Mother’s Day that we often overlook: the many women who are unable to have children and those mothers who have lost their children, always much too soon — sometimes before they get to see a first smile or hear a first laugh, other times after they’ve memorized every hair and freckle — but always much too soon.
Diana Stone is the Editor-In-Chief at Still Standing Magazine, an online magazine that focuses on “giving a voice to grief, connecting hearts around the world who have similar life experiences” and “becoming a resource for friends, family and medical professionals, to know how to support someone enduring child loss and/or infertility.”
Diana is an amazingly strong mother. She has two daughters, ages 8 and 2. She also has three sons, Preston, Julian and Kaden, who all passed away after they were born in 2012 and 2013.
She remembers being a little girl in church on Mother’s Day and watching as women stood to receive a flower for each child they had.
“As a girl, I had no idea the pain this must have caused some of the women sitting or who stood only to receive the number of flowers of their living children,” says Diana.
In 2010, people around the world began to recognize these women with their own special day. Bereaved Mother’s Day takes place each year on the Sunday before traditional Mother’s Day. On this day, we honor the women who have experienced the heartbreak of losing a child, or infertility – and who may be experiencing Mother’s Day grief.
But while society has made a lot of progress with recognition of bereaved parents, many people still don’t know how to handle others’ grief. It can feel uncomfortable, and there’s a sense of uncertainty about what to say or do for those who are grieving. Unfortunately, that uncertainty often leads to silence or avoidance where there could be compassion and empathy.
“Bereaved Mother’s Day holds a special place in many of our hearts because it is a day set aside to honor many women who may have never been publicly called ‘Mother,’ who always see child(ren) missing as their others play, and who feel someone is gone in a packed room when no one else may even know,” says Diana. “As a mother with only two of my five children living, it’s always been an important day for me because it gives me a reason to share about my other children. I know we shouldn’t ‘need’ a reason, but many of us do. We aren’t able to post updates or share their funny stories, so this is one day set aside for the memories we so very much wish we could still be making with them.”
People who are aware of Bereaved Mother’s Day might not know what to say or how they can show up for their loved ones who experience this day.
How can we show them that we care? How can we recognize their loss and acknowledge what they are going through in a sensitive and meaningful way?
What we say and do matters most in our relationships with women who experience this day. The best thing you can do for them is to show them how much you care by communicating it to them.
“First, if someone is reading this and [thinks], ‘Yes — how do I show this support?’ Thank you. Thank you for wanting to show us you care, because that means so much,” says Diana.
She says it can be as simple as saying, ”I don’t know exactly what to say, but I do want you to know I remember and am thinking of you, especially today.” She stresses that if their child had a name, you should use it.
How else can we show support during this time of intense emotion? You could call them, ask if they would like to talk about it over tea. Send flowers or a card to simply say you’re thinking of them. Offer your time and company.
“If you are able to do something, please don’t say, ‘Let me know if I can do something’ — just do it,” says Diana. “Let them know you’ll be dropping off dessert, send them a memory necklace, write them a letter.”
Diana encourages bereaved parents to connect with others who are going through the same thing, so they can also find encouragement and support from those who know what that feels like.
“If you have lost a child, know there are thousands of us out there who know each and every emotion you are walking through,” she says. “Reach out to a community online or in person for support and help. We wish we weren’t part of this, but since we are, most of us just want to make sure no one else ever walks this alone.”
Diana suggests that those who haven’t experienced the loss of a child take this opportunity on Bereaved Mother’s Day to learn how to support those who have. Mamas need to know that friends, family and especially other mamas have their backs — especially when the absolute worst thing possible happens and a child’s life is lost. In those most painful times, and in the lifetime ahead, it means everything for a loving and compassionate community to show up in support of the grieving.
Even if you’re not getting along or you’ve lost touch, try to show up anyway. Imagine how much it could mean to someone to know that even though you don’t talk much anymore, you are thinking of them and their struggle.
“It can be a conversation starter and a healing place with a rocky relationship,” Diana says. “You may be the only person who has asked about their child or said their child’s name in a very long time.”
We all know it’s important to keep our relationships close. And it can mean so much to someone when we express our thoughtful support for them.
“Mother’s Day is a beautiful day and a very hard day all wrapped into one, and I think Bereaved Mother’s Day gently honors the intent while asking our society to simply consider another truth in many lives,” Diana says. “It’s a reminder that a mother may look completely different from someone you see with her hands full of little ones or the grandmother surrounded by grandchildren.“
Remember, honoring someone can be a simple as being brave enough to have a difficult conversation, and showing up for them is any way you can, no matter what. At the end of the day, being there for the people who matter most means everything.
You may even choose to write what you feel down in a simple note they may choose to keep and read whenever they need support. For some ways you can get started, we have invited writers who have talked with so many who have experienced grief and loss to share their insights here.
See Diana’s story on Still Standing Magazine’s website to learn more about her.
Diana Stone is the Editor-in-Chief of Still Standing. We’re so grateful she has shared her story and mission with us.
Article written by Sophie Franchi. Sophie is a mother, a writer, an editor and a thinker. In 2016, she graduated from The University of Akron, where she earned a BA in English with a minor in Creative Writing. She’s also a bartender at HiHO Brewing Company, where she first developed a love for IPAs. She is the former Managing Editor of The Devil Strip, the alt-monthly arts and culture magazine based Akron, Ohio. She loves Akron with a whole lot of her heart.