Life as a Widower

A young widowed father opening up about living with loss

mother’s day

A number of people have asked me what I’m planning to do for Mother’s Day this year. It’s an easy one to answer for me. I’m going to buy my mum a card and a present and tell her that I love her.

It’s not so easy for my son though. He’s only two-years-old so the day could easily pass unmarked without him noticing. But I do understand that it will get more difficult to deal with as the years go by and I never want to brush things under the carpet for the sake of an easy life.

Personally, I’m also going to try to approach significant calendar dates positively. There are enough miserable, sad days in the year now for me to accentuate holidays and key events throughout the year with more doom and gloom.

So this Mother’s Day I’m going to buy Desreen flowers from her favourite florist and put them in her own living room rather than in her shared grave yard, because I know she hated sharing. I’m also going to spend time talking to my son about his mummy. We’re going to go shopping and buy something overpriced to make the house look nice too. I know what she liked because she had the foresight to leave me with a folder full of pages torn out of magazines, just in case she ever caught me with money to burn.

I’ve also been sent the following advice from Child Bereavement UK, which might help others whether it’s children who have been left without a mum or parents who have lost a child.

Coping with Mother’s Day 

Over the years the prominence and commercial aspects of Mother’s Day have grown and grown. From at least a month before the actual date it is impossible to avoid shops full of cards and gifts, adverts about special bouquets and lunches, and we are surrounded by reminders of that special role of Mother and the day of celebration.

But for many families, Mother’s day is a poignant reminder of a special mum or precious child that has died, and the anticipation of that day looming can be particularly difficult. So often, people say they just wish they could cancel it from the calendar.

When children are bereaved

For children bereaved of their mum, the day can be very hard. Sometimes people think it will be easier if they carry on as if nothing has happened, but this usually isn’t very helpful. Many children have told us it actually helps to be able to do something to remember their mum on Mother’s Day.

Families have found lots of different ways to mark the day and think about the things that made their mum so special, such as:

  • Visiting a special place where they remember having fun times with their mum
  • Making a Mother’s Day card to take to their mum’s grave or other special place
  • Talking to other people in the family about their mum and maybe even learning some things about her they didn’t know before
  • Looking through photographs or at the special things they keep in a memory box they have made
  • Children may also have other special people in their life that they would like to make a Mother’s Day card for

Some children have told us they can feel really angry on days like this when everyone else looks so happy with their mums. They’ve found joining in a competitive sport, having a good run around outside or hitting a punch bag has used up some energy and helped them with these angry feelings.

When a child has died

When a child has died, Mother’s Day can be a time when that child’s absence can be acutely felt. Where there are other children in the family, who naturally want to celebrate Mother’s day in the usual way, the gap feels even more evident and bereaved mums can feel they have to ‘go through the motions’ for the sake of the other children. When your child has died, shopping for a card and gift for your own mother can be really difficult too.

Some mothers who have lost their only child tell us that although they know they are a mother, the outside world doesn’t necessarily see them in that role any longer and this lack of acknowledgement can make Mother’s Day particularly hard when everyone is celebrating motherhood.

So often, people will avoid mentioning the subject with the best of intentions, but mums tell us having no acknowledgement can sometimes be more hurtful.

Families have found that doing something positive to mark Mother’s Day can help – having some flowers at home beside their child’s picture, lighting a candle to remember them, or doing something special on the day are just some of the things mums have done to acknowledge their baby or child that has died and their role as that child’s mother. 

Alternatively, some mums have found it better to just get away from all the commercialism and reminders of Mother’s Day by going for a walk in the countryside or along the coast. It’s important that whatever you do, you do what feels right for you and helps you through the day.

13 comments on “mother’s day

  1. Adele
    February 25, 2013

    this year is the first mothers day without my mum and it falls on my birthday – its the one day i’ve been dreading. i’ve booked a table for my dad, sister & nephew to go out for dinner and i’ll take her flowers and thank her for being such a fabulous mum. I only wish she was here for our double celebration.

    • CK.
      February 25, 2013

      It is never easy, whilst others celebrate you feel heartbroken. Last year was the first mothers day without my mum. Despite being 31 when she passed you never not feel like a child when you have your mum and it was a really difficult day. I pretended it wasn’t happening which I think was a mistake, and I didn’t remind my dad it was a special day either so he didn’t remember… It’s hard not to feel bitter and mournful when others are celebrating but I think its a good day to cry, laugh, do whatever you need to do to remember such a special person (oh, and try and avoid social media where people are going on and on about mother’s day, that didn’t help me!) x

  2. amumatlast
    February 25, 2013

    Those are such positive things to do Ben…. sounds like Desreen would have appreciated all you are planning so much. Each year we do something to remember my dad around his birthday. This year we are planting an oak tree in his favourite forest where we scattered his ashes, taking a walk around it with all his grand daughters and then having a slap up meal in his favourite pub where I’ll order something hideously unhealthy as I know that’s what he’d eat if he could.

  3. Sheraz
    February 25, 2013

    I’m 35 and this is going to be the 19th Mother’s Day without my mother. I always buy her flowers, as I do on her birthday. Knowing her she would probably say I shouldn’t “waste” my money and buy something useful/that I need instead, and it makes me both smile and cry. Smile, because that’d very typical of her (from what I can remember), and cry because I would give everything I have and more just to have her with me instead. Our loved ones may not longer be there physically but their special place forever remains in our hearts.
    And yes it is hard to ignore such “key” events in the calendar, turning a blind eye is impossible so we might as well embrace them and do our own thing. Even harder when people who don’t know our “circumstancess” ask what we have planned for the day – always makes for an awkward moment.

    I wish you and Jackson a lovely Mother’s Day.

  4. seeloois
    February 25, 2013

    This blog post was incredibly timely for me. A while ago, I responded to your blog, Ben, as a Headteacher, wondering where to begin with supporting children who are facing the loss of a parent. Bereavement seems to side-swipe in totally unpredictable ways…last week, I was contacted by the father of one of my children to let me know that his wife had given birth to a stillborn daughter the previous evening. I cannot imagine how awful Mother’s Day will be for this family but this post has helped me to think about how we may approach significant days such as this with bereaved families. Thank you.

    • lifeasawidower.com
      February 25, 2013

      Thanks so much for telling me this. Comments like this continue to make the blog worthwhile

  5. mawarre
    February 25, 2013

    I have lost my mother and one of my children and your reflections and advice from the Child Bereavement organisation are very helpful. For me, my daughter’s birthday has been the most difficult, as it was also the day she died, and as a family we have found lots of ways to mark this occassion that have changed as time has passed and we have integrated more the experience of her loss into our lives. We planted a tree; when my other children were small we had birthday cakes for Lucy; we have looked through the few mementos the lovely hospital staff gave us at the time of her death; we have visited her grave. Mother’s Day is wrapped up for us in home made gifts (usually made at school) and we stay right away from commercial aspects of the day. As my children are older, I say to them – an act of service to me is the best gift.

    Once again, you are touching lives with your story and helping others trhoug your honesty and openness. This blog is a special place.

  6. nick pomfret
    February 26, 2013

    Despite the passing years it still feels unnatural and strange that I have an 88 year old mother and yet my daughters lost their mother, my wife, Barbie, 11 years ago after 25 years married. I can’t speak on behalf of my daughters, Marianne and Katherine, simply because we all handle death and approach bereavement in different ways to one another. And that was certainly the case for all three of us. During those years I have been constantly reminded that I can’t be a mum to my daughters, (and God knows I tried). However, I can be the next best thing – a dad who can do a spot of baby sitting, cooking, DIY, hospital and nursery runs, and acting the goat with the granddaughters, but above all frequently assuring them of my unconditional love!

    This mothers day, after visiting my mum in the care home with flowers, reminding her of who I am and what the rest of the family are doing, I shall move on to the crematorium to visit the sundial we had installed and under which we placed my wife Barbie’s ashes. Lunch and the rest of the afternoon will be spent with Barbie’s best friend and her husband when we will undoubtedly reminisce about the last 40 years, during which eyes will fill and and there will be an occasional lump in the throat, (like the one I’m experiencing now) testament to our love for Barbie, the loss we feel, and above all the happiness we shared through knowing her.
    I don’t want these feelings to fade because behind those feelings, somehow I feel a strengthening, warm glow that helps me along, to continue living, to be thankful. It may surprise you to know that I have never put these feelings into print even for myself to read, never mind anyone else! So your blog is affecting many people in very different ways.That in itself is a positive and a good thing.
    God bless you Ben and Jackson

    • lifeasawidower.com
      February 26, 2013

      Well thank you for sharing with me, Nick. I’m sure you response will help a lot of people too. See you soon.

  7. Vicky
    February 26, 2013

    Hi Ben If you feel up to it please come along with Jackson to Harlow Town Park on 17th March from 11 to 1pm where we are going to write messages on balloons and let them off in memory of a loved one. Jeff Brazier and his boys has this idea and as we do this at every Grief Encounter workshop we are bringing bereaved families together to do this. Details will be on http://www.griefencounter.org.uk. Weather permitting hoping to have bouncy castle, party buses etc.

  8. Jet Black
    February 27, 2013

    Your response feels spot on to me. Just reading what you’ve written about your plans for the day puts me at ease. Ignoring something painful does not make it less painful, but only adds resentment and repression to the pain. I know you know this, whether intellectually or intuitively. I hope you and Jackson have a happy sad day together.

    As for letting off balloons, I also saw this on a TV programme about a funeral company last night. While I like and totally appreciate the sentiment, and I really don’t want to burst your balloon, I am aware that those balloons do a lot of damage in nature. I wonder if there is a more environmentally-friendly way of letting go and watching as a group symbol of love floats away…?

  9. brightonsinginglessons
    March 2, 2013

    Ben, I hope that you got some wonderful flowers!

    It has been a funny week, as not only was it my Mum’s Birthday, it also happened to be Mothers day this week. As I usually do, I have bravely carried on (funny how the more upset I actually feel, the more “professional” I get!!) , but I guess your blog (not even sure how I stumbled across it?) has hit the nail on the head.
    I’ve had quiet tears streaming down my cheeks, so I guess I am not that professional, after all…

    Your perspectives of those children who have lost parents, parents who have lost children and the general symbolism of emotional days is incredibly timely.

    I have discovered an unexpected positive side of having been bereaved. It means that sometimes I am able to empathise like never before with those going through hard times. It also seems as if you are doing the same with your blog?

    So by putting fingertip to keyboard, you are growing, even though I appreciate that this must have been the most bittersweet of lessons to digest. Thanks again for your honour and dignity as you describe what it feels like. Your honesty is like pure crystal water on my soul. I wish you and your little boy all the best of luck in your present moment and in both of your futures. Enjoy the flowers…

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