Surviving another Mother’s Day without a son or daughter
Written by Eileen Spatz, COA Contributing WriterApproaching Mother’s Day each year used to be a cause for joy. Mother’s Day provided an opportunity to relish the special attention we’d receive from our precious children and to take stock in the important role we play in their lives. Each and every May we mothers marked the day by happily receiving cute handmade gifts from our young kids, to beautiful, thoughtful cards and gifts from our adult children. For my first 26 Mother’s Days as a mom, this holiday was a happy, joy-filled one. The 27th, in 2014, however, was the first Mother’s Day I spent without my beautiful son, Chris, who I lost to the deadly combination of depression and alcoholism, culminating in suicide.
No one can prepare oneself for the loss of a child. It is simply unthinkable; something so grievous to imagine that it never even enters our thoughts. That is, until the day the unthinkable becomes a reality. For far too many of us, Mother’s Day is now a grim reminder of the most gut wrenching experience we will ever know, the loss of our child to substance abuse and/or mental illness while in the prime of their lives. We cry out, “Why am I here and my son [daughter] isn’t? This is Mother’s Day….where is my child?”
For those of us moms who live in a state of perpetual bereavement, we seek solace any way we can find it. Some of us are blessed with other children who continue the Mother’s Day traditions in a compassionate effort to somehow alleviate the gaping hole left by their lost sibling. I am among those lucky mothers who still have living children, thank God. But since losing Chris in 2013 I have met mothers who lost their one and only child. My heart breaks with empathy for these women who have to endure unending Mother’s Days, in addition to the other 364 days a year, without their only child here to share it with. It is difficult to imagine solace is possible in any form for these tortured moms, but solace they, too, seek.
You see, each of us grieving mothers eventually come to accept the fact that we do have a choice in how we live the remainder of our lives. Do we choose to sit in a dark corner with the shades drawn in perpetuity or do we scratch and claw our way back toward the warm glow of the sun? In these last couple of years I have witnessed the unbelievable strength and resilience of many of my fellow grieving mamas, including those who lost their only child. I am even amazed at my own ability to rise from the ashes to start two small business ventures, thus setting a positive example for my daughters to witness what survival looks like.
I am in awe of the contributions of a mother like Jodi Barber, a COA board member, who has taken the pain of losing her beautiful son, Jarrod, and shaping it into a phenomenal program Overtaken to help educate youth nationwide about the dangers of drug abuse. Or Kathryn Ross, who in living with the horrific heartbreak of having lost two children to mental illness and suicide, chooses to transmit a message of hope through lil’ Gary’s Legacy along with husband Gary, which provides materials and resources for grief support. And Veronica Eckhardt and her husband Devin, following the tragic death of their only son, embarked upon a mission to educate and warn other families of the deadly side effects and risks associated with legal synthetic drugs. Mothers fueled by grief and sorrow can do some unbelievable things in their desire to honor their precious child’s memory.
The celebration of Mother’s Day will, yet again, be a difficult day for those of us who have a child residing in heaven. Maybe what we should do is turn our faces up to the sky, blow a kiss to our angel children, and thank God for the blessing of having been chosen to be their mothers here on earth. What an amazing gift, indeed.