Ade, anguish, bewildered, bittersweet, blessed, buried, child-loss, contrasting feelings, eldest son, grateful, gratitude, grief, grieving, happy, joy, laid to rest, May 9, mother, Mother's Day, motherhood, mystified, Tarik, thankfulness, youngest son
Can a mother forget the infant at her breast,
walk away from the baby she bore? – Isaiah 49:15a, MSG
It is Mother’s Day today, but all I can focus on is the fact that four years ago, on the 9th of May, I laid my eldest son to rest. Because I lost a child, each Mother’s Day since his passing, I am mystified whenever I think about being a mother who outlived her oldest son.
I am utterly bewildered because I feel sad and happy on Mother’s Day. I am sad because I lost a son whom I miss every day, and I am blessed (happy) because I still have a son – my youngest son – whom I see every day.
Furthermore, because I am still grieving Ade’s death, Mother’s Day is extremely bittersweet. That is to say, on one hand, I feel immense joy because I was blessed with two sons (Ade and Tarik). I also feel enormous gratitude for every moment I have had with both of them. On the other hand, the pain from missing Ade is so intense that it frequently lessens the joy I should be feeling for Tarik who is alive. Then too, the deep anguish I feel because I miss Ade often diminishes the genuine thankfulness I should be expressing for the time I still have with Tarik.
I am the mother of a child who is not alive. I am also the mother of a child who is alive. Let there be no doubt about it. I love both of my sons in unique and special ways, but the uncomfortable truth is one of them is dead. That is why it is difficult for me – a grieving mother – to feel immense joy all day long on Mother’s Day, especially since I am torn between feeling joy and happiness for Tarik and grief and anguish for Ade. I am certain that all bereaved mothers who have surviving children live with many of the same confusing contrasts.
The bottom line is that since May 2, 2017, when my firstborn son died, Mother’s Day became a day that is hard for me to enjoy because I live with an emptiness that no one – not even my alive son – can fill. As a result, I more than likely will be sad and unsociable on Mother’s Day. I may even need to be by myself.
Whatever shape my grief takes on Mother’s Day, I don’t want people to lecture me about how I shouldn’t forget just how “lucky” I am to have a son who is alive. Losing a child changed everything for me. In other words, I am a different kind of mother because I am a different kind of normal. Therefore, the people who want to support me on difficult days like Mother’s Day need to understand that supporting me means accepting that I am a grieving mother who will always love and miss her deceased son, as well as will always love her living son and will always be immensely grateful that he is alive.