It’s that time of year again.

That time when everywhere I look there are aching reminders – commercials, racks of cards, advertisements, special programs, and endless talk of Mother’s Day. When the day actually arrives, social media is plastered with images of mothers and their children, stories of sweet gestures – barely edible breakfast in bed, child drawn cards and pictures, flowers and treats, cute stories of how amazing it is to be a mother.

Unless I hide in my home with no television, no radio, no cell phone and no internet service for last half of April and first half of May, the endless reminders of Mother’s Day are unavoidable.

I don’t really show it much on the outside, but in these weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, I walk around with a heart that bleeds and a throat full of held-back tears. I go to work and talk with friends and go about my life as usual while everything inside of me aches with grief for the children I cannot hold.

The other day I watched a mother and her son in a restaurant and wondered, “Can she really grasp the incredible gift that she has? The opportunity to love and raise and nurture her son here on Earth? Can she truly know how lucky she is?”

I love my mama friends and I love their children. Yet in these weeks before Mother’s Day, I wish none of them would say a word about their kids or their lives as mothers. Any other time of the year, I love hearing their stories about the successes and challenges with their kids. I love them and want to share in that part of their lives.

Yet in these weeks, I can’t bear to hear those stories. I don’t want to know what amazing or funny thing their child did. I don’t want to listen to how hard it is to deal with X, Y or Z as a parent. Every mention feels they are taking a hammer to my heart and breaking it to pieces.

See, I have stories of my children too. Thousands of images and memories of life with my daughters. Endless things I could tell my friends and family about.

But my stories and memories aren’t real.

My daughters died before birth. In my mind, I see them here with me every day. I imagine who they might be, what they would look like, and how life with them would be. They are part of everything that I do and who I’ve become in this world. In some ways, they are as real to me as your living, breathing children are to you.

Except aren’t. They are phantom children. I cannot show you pictures or tell you stories of how sweet or how mischievous they are. They live only in my imagination as possibilities of what might have been. You cannot see them and few would look at me and see a mother.

You won’t find stories of motherhoods such as mine in the commercials or the greeting card aisle or advertisements. Your church won’t mention mothers like me by name – though they may think they are by tacking on an addendum such as “and all those who consider themselves mothers.” There won’t be a brunch special for mothers of dead kids.

I don’t live the socially accepted or recognized motherhood. I’m not the kind of mother most will think of on this day called Mother’s Day.

I will wake to a quiet and empty home. I will make myself breakfast and go about my day as usual. There will be no giggling girls, no tempers to calm, not special “mom” events to attend, no outside proof of my motherhood.

I may not be recognized as a mother on this day called “Mother’s Day,” but I will remember. I will remember the children that made me into this person called Mother. I will remember the lives that grew inside of me and that I love beyond any kind of measure.

My greatest wish on Mother’s Day is that every recognized mother truly knows the gift that she has – a living, breathing child here on Earth with them. Children she gets to nurture and hold and share endless stories of their successes and their challenges.

The gift of Mother’s Day is getting the opportunity to mother your child. I would give up a thousand lifetimes for the chance to mother my girls here in living, breathing form.

I spent a couple hours the other night rocking someone else’s crying baby to sleep. It’s something I do fairly regularly now as part of a new job. Sweet baby smell, aching arms, and that heavy sleeping baby weight in my arms.

On the same day I also looked at pictures of a friend who had taken her teenage son to visit colleges over spring break. She talked about how proud she is of him and how she is preparing herself to let him go off into the world on his own.

Both situations made me want to lay my head down and weep.

Most of the time these days, I handle being around kids or watching other women mother pretty well. There’s always a slight pinch in my heart, but generally speaking it doesn’t rip and tear the way it once did. I’m so used to that pinch now, I barely register it. For the most part, I’ve accepted the fact that I don’t have my children here to nurture and know in this physical world. I have mostly made my peace with being a mother without living children.

Except Mother’s Day is approaching again. Mother’s Day and Christmas are the two holidays when my heart bleeds fresh. I can’t help but feel bombarded with images and reminders of what I didn’t have, don’t have, and will never have – a baby to love and nurture, a child to raise, a teenager to see grow into independence.

Already, I’m seeing ads and commercials, cards filling up the aisles in stores, displays for Mother’s Day gifts popping up everywhere. For most of the last 14 years, my dearest wish this time of year was to be somehow get lost on some deserted island away from all technology, people, and heartbreaking reminders that I will never be a “real” mother in the eyes of the world.

I wanted to disappear and be invisible in the same way that my motherhood has been invisible and generally disregarded all these years.

However, in recent years, despite the fresh bruises on my heart from reminders of what I don’t have, I have chosen to reclaim Mother’s Day. The world may never see my motherhood or find it as valid and valuable as those mothers with living children, but I wanted to acknowledge it and the motherhood of others like me without their children to hold.

And so Share Your Mother Heart was born.

A 14-day journey created specifically for mothers without any living children to honor, acknowledge, and share their experience of motherhood. To bring us together to talk about our experiences of motherhood, pregnancy, and more – to share the experiences that too often others don’t wish to hear about because our babies have died.

This Mother’s Day let us come together and acknowledge each other. Let’s share our stories and honor each other as the mothers that we are. As invisible as our motherhood might seem to the world around us, we are still mothers. Let’s see each other.

Join us and share your mother heart.

(This post is a modified version of 2016’s Share Your Mother Heart post)

Grace Hayden.

My Grace.

Sometimes I say her name in my head over and over again and it brings me comfort. I’ve been missing her more than words can express lately, my sweet baby who would be turning 14 next week.

Grief has ebbed and flowed over these past 14 years – sometimes a quiet ache that lingers in my bones and others a gushing flow of tears and fierce longing that batters my heart. The last few weeks have been more gushing than quiet aching. This new layer of grief has taken me by surprise.

I have spent far more time in my bed, my car, the bathroom at work, choking on tears and weeping as if it was just yesterday that she silently and suddenly died in my womb. It has gotten more difficult in recent years to imagine what she might look like now. I’m struggling to picture how her sweet baby features might have aged into the young woman she would be at 14.

I can’t see her anymore and the loss of that ability to imagine her face has made her seem so very far away from me.

When she seems impossibly out of reach, I say her name. Over and over. Grace. My Grace. And then I try to remember and live what she taught me:

To always seek to find the beauty in the ruins.

When I am lonely, she taught me to look for those who make my smile.
When I feel broken, she taught me to see those who can sit with me in my brokenness and see my wholeness.
When I feel lost, she taught me to look for those people or places that brighten the darkness.
When things appear hopeless, she taught me to look for possibility – not guarantees.
When grief takes my feet out from under me, she taught me to see love in the messiness of tears.

She taught me that no matter how dark and uncertain circumstances can feel, life and hope will always sprout up in the ruins and flowers will bloom again.

She gives me hope, even when she feels so far away.

No matter how powerful the grief, hope always blooms.

My gift from Grace. Hope.

brigitte-tohm-210081Courageous Mama who has lost so much –

I see your pain.

Though you may present the world with a smiling face and statements of “I’m fine,” I still see the broken and battered heart you carry. The heart broken by the devastating loss of your precious child.

I see how you cry.

I see the hours you spend in the shower, where your tears mix with falling water. I see you under the blankets, curled in the fetal position as sobs shudder through your body. I see you stagger out of the office or the grocery store or your family’s home, barely closing the car door behind you before the tears course down your face.

I see how much you ache.

That unbearable ache of your empty arms that long to hold your beautiful child. The hollow bitterness of seeing so many other women getting pregnant and having babies. The blinding pain of seeing family after family, innocent and intact while yours is forever missing it’s most precious members.

I see the envy and the jealously that lingers.

I see the waves of jealously and bitter anger that flood through you with every new pregnancy announcement and every perfect new “rainbow” baby presented. I see the guilt you feel for not feeling happy for family members or other loss families who get what you may never have – a beautiful living child to raise and nurture.

I see your doubts and fears and inconsolable sorrow.

The uncertainty of knowing if you will ever have another child, one who lives and gets to stay here with you on this Earth. The inconsolable grief of knowing there will never be a living child for you to hold and teach and parent. The fears of feeling empty and broken and incomplete forever. The doubt that you can find hope or healing without a child to raise.

I see your everyday longings.

The longing to hear your baby cry at night. How silent tears stream down your face when you realize there is no baby crying, it was only a dream and your baby is forever silent. The utter quiet of your home without the laughter and noisy play of your child. The first day of school pictures you don’t get to take and the birthday candles you don’t get to see your little one blow out.

I see all of this. I know all of this.

But I also want you to know that I see how you love.

You, beautiful courageous mama, are the fiercest of mothers. You love beyond time and space, beyond death, and beyond the weight of your grief and tears.

You, Mama, love and remember and honor even when the world tells you to be silent, to move on, and to forget. You refuse to listen to the world. You might stagger and stumble at times under the burden of loss and grief, but you always stand up. Your love always outlives your grief.

Keep on, courageous mama. You have something the world and death can never take away.

You are a mother. You love with a mother’s unbreakable love.

And I see you.

17039006_10101349515387599_8091115275794128101_oNext month should be my daughter’s 14th birthday.

Fourteen years without her. 14 years without her father. Nearly 8 years without her sister. It seems unreal that it has been so long, too often it still feels like yesterday.

I created a pretty damn good life since the loss of them.

I love being a therapist and working with grieving mothers. I love writing my books and helping give a voice to people who simply want to be heard. I have enjoyed my slightly nomadic life, moving around to different towns and different states. I have meet so many amazing people over the years and they have made my life so much brighter.

Still, lately, it seems I’ve stumbled into another layer of grief in this life after loss that I am living. This past year has been difficult – the missing of my daughters and my fiancé, all gone far before I was ready to say good-bye, has become closer to the surface than it was in recent years. I am once again crying nearly every day for the burning ache of missing them. I’m back in therapy myself for some added support as I find my way through this new layer of grief.

In all honestly, part of me always thinks that someday, finally, this grief and this aching will fade away. I know better, my love for them will always tangle with grief over the absence of them, yet part of me always hopes that this someday of faded grief will come.

I guess I can’t say what the future will hold, but 14 years later I still grieve for and think about them every day.

Every single day.

They are the first thing I think about upon waking up in the morning. They are the last thing I think of when I lay down to sleep. Thoughts of them arise a hundred times throughout the day – sometimes a fleeting awareness and other times I have a difficult time focusing because I’m distracted by thoughts or memories of them.

Lately I miss them so fiercely it hurts to breathe.

I struggle with knowing how to talk about this grief – the grief that is 14 years old yet feels bitterly fresh and new again. I don’t know how to describe it to friends and family. I don’t have an explanation for why it’s rearing its head so strongly after all this time.

And I admit, I’m afraid of hearing the things I’ve heard too often before.

Haven’t you moved past this yet?
It’s been how many years now?
Shouldn’t you be in a better place by now?
You’re focusing too much on the sad stuff, you should focus on the positive.

Truthfully, I don’t know really if I should or shouldn’t be where I’m at with grief right now. I don’t think it really matters. This is where I am.

Grief, like love, has no basis in time.

So, I don’t necessarily have any words of wisdom to offer. I don’t have any answers for you if you are grieving too.

What I can say is this:

If you are grieving, whether it’s been hours or decades, wherever you are in that process is ok.

You are not alone.

I may not have answers, but I do know that together we can walk each other through the dark.

If you miss your “them” and you are hurting and grieving – me too. You don’t have to face it alone.

Every day.

Love.
Grief.
Remembering.


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