Being A Mother After Your Child Dies
by Nancy Berns
This Mother’s Day, I look forward to sharing it with my amazing daughters. They are the world to me, and I am honored to be their mom.
I am also a mother to my son, Zachariah, who was stillborn 11 years ago. I share this post in hope that mothers who are grieving the loss of a child will find solace in knowing you are not alone.
After encountering another mom at the cemetery one spring day, I wrote this poem.
At the Grave
She was a young woman standing by a grave,
“Hi. You must be Caitlin’s mom,” I say.
And glancing slightly to the right, a few feet away
“I’m Zachariah’s mom,” I pray.
Tenderly brushing leaves away.
A small bunny, a teddy bear, a flower.
Smiling at a little boy chasing a bunny. Heaven.
Pulling stray weeds that day.
Tending the grave.
Being a mother, each and every day.
I have faith in knowing that one day I will see my child again. That will be the ultimate Mother’s Day. But it is still a struggle to be a mom to a child who is not here.
After Zachariah died, a lot of people sent us flowers and plants. Many of them came from one particular flower shop in town. A couple of weeks later, I went to that flower shop to buy a thank you plant for some friends. In talking with the woman helping me, I told her most of my plants had just recently come from there. She said with excitement, “Oh, did you just have a baby?” I burst into tears and could not speak. She, with only a moment’s thought, said, “Oh, you must be Zachariah’s mom.” Then I cried more—but for a different reason than what you may be thinking. It was a special moment even though I didn’t understand why at the time.
Over the years, I have gone back to that store and the same woman recognizes me and offers support through her recognition. I buy flowers to take to his grave. Family send flowers from that store. Then there were the births of my girls and other happy events that have decorated our lives and marked in part with flowers. But every time I enter that store, I am Zachariah’s mom.
Ten years after Zachariah’s death, I was telling this story to a friend. I had a difficult time sharing because of my tears. Then it dawned on me. It was the words that she used that day. It was how she identified me.
She said, “You must be Zachariah’s mom.” That is not something most people say to me. I know that and feel it, but I don’t get to hear that. People don’t say, you are Zachariah’s mom. And in her case, that is how she knows me.
Few people look at me and see love for my son as a central part of who I am. So I find other ways to nurture my identity as Zachariah’s mom, even if just for myself. I cannot hold him in my arms, but I hold him in my heart.
I am still his mother, and he is still my child. It is not the typical Hallmark card image of Mother’s Day, but I use the day to recognize our relationship. I try to live in a way that honors his life.
If you are a grieving mother, may you find comfort as you remember and love your child.
You can find more articles from Nancy at her website: http://www.nancyberns.com