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Please Don't Wish Me a Happy Mother's Day

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Mother’s Day, for most, is a day of relaxation, breakfast in bed and bouquets of flowers picked from the garden. But for those of us who are bereaved, who have buried a child and who have spent their years mourning that loss, Mother’s Day can be nothing more than a cruel reminder of grief. I dread its coming each spring. I turn my head away as I walk by the Mother’s Day cards at the store. I flip the channel when the commercials for “Happy Mother’s Day!” pop up on the TV. I change the subject when someone asks me about my big plans for the big day. Despite all of my internationally avoiding it each year, somehow it still sneaks up on me. Each year I find myself shocked by how deeply her death still hurts.

My daughter did not die on Mother’s Day. She died silently early one morning in July, almost 13 years ago. But Mother’s Day is still one of my hardest days of the year. It feels like just yesterday that I was pregnant with her in my belly. I was young and hopeful and so excited for my new life as a mother. That, my very first Mother’s Day, is as vivid as any memory of my life. Both my sister-in-law and I were seven months pregnant and we gathered together with my mother and father to celebrate the upcoming births of the two girl cousins. At the brunch table there were pink flowers and pink gifts wrapped with silken ribbons. One was wrapped particularly beautifully, and had a tag with my name on it. A special gift from my mother to me, her only daughter. She beamed as I opened the gift and dug through the layers of pink tissue paper to see the sweetest pink baby gown with delicate pink roses on the tiny pink hat. It was the outfit my Madeline would come home from the hospital in. I loved that small pink outfit and laid it in the crib when I got home, looking forward to seeing my baby girl there very soon.

But the thing is, she never came home. She died silently early that morning in July in the hospital and that sweet little pink outfit I got for my very first Mother’s Day is the outfit she was cremated in. I never even got to hold her in that outfit. They took her away from me too soon. Why didn’t I hold her longer? Why wasn’t I the one to dress her still, sweet body in that pink outfit and pull that tiny hat over all her dark brown hair? It has been 13 years and I still cannot find a way to get my heart around that. I cannot find away to forgive myself.

So as other mothers are opening homemade cards and eating pancakes in bed, I will be sobbing on the floor of my shower, broken yet again and terrified to face the well wishers who will inevitably wish me “Happy Mother’s Day!” in a cheery tone. As other mothers are flooded with happy memories of their children growing up, when I close my eyes I will again be haunted by the vision of my baby daughter being cremated, all alone, in her little pink outfit with delicate pink roses.

So, when you see me this week. Please, do not with me a Happy Mother’s Day. Let me push silently through this pain that feels unbearably still. Let me spend my Mother’s Day remembering her.

Thinkstock image by DariaZu

Originally published: May 10, 2017
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