I am myopically focused on hope. I realize that the word hope, and sometimes even the very notion of it, brings a lot of feelings up for people. I realize you may be sitting in a season that feels devoid of any shred or shard of hope. All feels lost; no hope to be found, here.
I totally get it.
I’ve been there.
I have had seasons where it felt like hope was a freaking joke. How can you possibly find hope after the loss of your most beloved person – your baby? After Caleb died, I was given devotionals on hope by friends who had been down a similar path as the one I was navigating and I had the loudest eye roll you’ve ever seen or heard when I would look at their titles. As snarky and cynical as I was, do you know where those devotional books resided within my house? Were they on my bookshelf? Nope. Were they tossed aside in my closet somewhere? Wrong again.
They sat on my nightstand next to my bible where I would see them every day, forcing me to decide if today was the day I was going to crack them open and admit that I was still clinging to hope. Hope that all wasn’t lost. Hope I would feel like myself again someday. Hope that I would have a living child. Hope that my marriage would survive. Hope that my faith would see me through. Hope that the darkness wouldn’t envelop me indefinitely.
I hid from hope, yet kept it within arms reach because I knew, deep down, that hope was what would pull me through. I’ll be honest – sometimes I borrowed hope from other Grief Warriors who were further along their grief journey than I was. It was what got me by when the emptiness felt like it was about to overtake me like a ship overtaken by rogue waves in the ocean.
Hurting with hope, still hurts.
April is rapidly coming to an end and May is upon us once more (insert Justin Timberlake meme here). May is so dearly tender; it can be one of the months that is high tide for grief warriors like us. International Bereaved Mother’s Day is this upcoming Sunday and with it brings a swirling of emotions. On the one hand, it’s beautiful that those of us mamas who are seared with the scars of child loss are recognized in a world that often overlooks our motherhood. Our stories, voices, and even babies tend to be minimized by this society obsessed with burying the pain and replacing the loss. Having a day devoted to our wounded motherhood makes me feel worthy; makes me feel seen and validated.
On the other hand, it can also make you feel as though your motherhood is different than traditional motherhood. As if you’re celebrated on a different day because your motherhood isn’t quite on par with the rest of theirs. It can feel very “us vs. them”. I’ll be honest, I’ve felt both ways. I’ve loved it and loathed it. I’ve celebrated it and grieved it. I’ve held the gratitude of being acknowledged as a mama in one hand and the desperation to be “normal” in the other. It’s a tricky needle to thread, figuring out how to feel about International Bereaved Mother’s Day.
This ragged road known as the grief journey is wrought with dichotomies; the both/and as my dad always calls them. Sifting through these contradictions can feel confusing and frustrating to sort out.
Here are a few ways I’ve reconciled the irreconcilable differences with International Bereaved Mother’s Day:
- I rest in the fact that traditional Mother’s Day was created to honor a grieving mama in the first place. Bereaved Mother’s Day and traditional Mother’s Day both honor grieving mamas and I take comfort in it. When I learned that fact it helped me to let go of some of the tension I felt between the days and allowed me to embrace them with open arms.
- Give yourself grace. One year you may feel devastated, thinking that you are only able to be celebrated on one day or the other. One year you may feel invigorated to be celebrated on both days. Perhaps your tender heart can only bear to celebrate one day or the other. Still yet, perhaps you’re just not ready to be honored on either day and choose to tuck it away for the year. No matter how you’re feeling about it, no matter which day you choose to honor your mamahood (or choose not to), it’s your journey and your choice. Rest easy, sweet Mama. Whatever you decide is what’s best for you where you’re at in this season.
- I do what feels best for me on that particular day. My husband has become adept at checking in on the lead up to the days to determine how heavy my grief is showing up and what, if anything, I’d like to do to honor my motherhood on the holiday. This is such a gift because it reminds me to actually listen to my grief and my season to make the determination of what I truly need. Last year I spent Mother’s Day in Michigan to surprise my Mother in Law, away from Caleb, who I typically spend time with on those days. I was away from my daughter, a mama herself, and my mom and sister, which was hard. When the waves of grief and feelings of disruption of my Mother’s Day rituals felt like they’d overtake me, I would focus on how it felt to hug my Sister in Law and the look on my Mother in Law’s face when she realized we had come to surprise her. I spent intentional time with Caleb at the cemetery before we left, brought the words to our 5-candle memorial ritual with me to Michigan, and spent time chatting with my daughter, sister and mom while I was away. I’ve learned to honor what I feel is best for me at the time and re-work my rituals around whatever that is in that particular year.
- I hold onto hope with everything I’ve got. When the horizon begins to feel shaky or I see storm clouds beginning to swirl, I defiantly choose hope. Even if it’s just a #tbspofhope. I reach for the things that bring me joy, the rituals that make me feel grounded, and create space where I can let the light into my darkness.
The lead up has begun and, for me, I feel the heaviness settling in. I see what is ahead in my calendar at the end of this week and I’m beginning to create the space where I can assess where I’m at in this season and what I need for both Bereaved Mother’s Day and traditional. It may look different this year, it may not. But one thing I know for certain is this: these holidays are not the only days you are honored as a mama, Grief Warrior Mamas. You are honored, valued, and seen as a mama each and every day. You are just as much of a mama next month as you are on either Mother’s Day and your motherhood is sacred. It is precious and dear and a thing of wonder. The capacity your heart has to love your babies is spectacular. The hope you have within you may feel nonexistent but it’s there, I promise you. Hold onto that hope with everything you’ve got; hold onto the knowing of how wildly precious your motherhood and your babies are.
These days are tender.
These days are bittersweet – sometimes more bitter than sweet.
Rest in the knowing your motherhood is honored, no matter what day you choose to identify with.
You are loved.
You are seen.
Keep your #tbspofhope alive.