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The history of Bereaved Mother’s Day

May 3, 2024

This Sunday 5 May is International Bereaved Mother’s Day.

A special day that was created in 2010 by Australian mum, Carly Marie Dudley, in honour of her stillborn son, Christian.

Carly was inspired to create a dedicated day, separate to Mother’s Day, that can “honour and celebrate the mothers who carry some, perhaps all, of their children in their hearts rather than their arms.”

While Mother’s Day is a beautiful day for many. It can also be an emotionally charged day that is challenging for grieving parents. Three very special mums, Anita, Grace and Michelle, kindly shared their thoughts and feelings on how difficult this time of year can be:

How has your experience of Mother’s Day changed?

“Mother’s Day is a very hard day for me. Luke passed away the day after Mother’s Day. At the time it felt special that I had him for one more Mother’s Day and that he held on for me. However, given it falls around his anniversary every year it makes it the most difficult ‘special day’ of the year.” – Anita, mum of Luke who had a brain tumour

“Mother’s Day doesn’t feel the same.” – Grace, mum of William and Matthew who both had undiagnosed neurological conditions

“Before Isla died, it was a day of happiness, a day to celebrate the love I have for my children and the joy of being a mum. Now the day has a mix of emotions. There is still joy in being a mum to my two sons and there is also joy, remembering Isla as a bereaved mum, but there is sadness that our family is no longer complete.– Michelle, mum of Isla who had Sandhoff disease

What strategies have you found helpful to cope with days like this?

“I visit the cemetery and try to remember that he always wanted everyone to be happy and I know that he would be sad if we were not happy.” – Anita

“I don’t really have much strategies. I get out the cards that my boys done at school for mother’s day and I buy myself a present from my boys.” – Grace

“I sometimes take some time to be by myself, have a bath, read a book, listen to music. I find ways to be grateful for the time I had with my daughter and the wonderful memories we have as a family in the short life she had. I am grateful to the many beautiful people I have met because of Isla and the way I can now help others who are going through similar difficult times.” – Michelle

Do you have any words of support you’d like to share with other bereaved mums?

“Try and be brave for the sake of your other children but build in some time to grieve for yourself.” – Anita

“The only support I would offer is think of the happy times, that’s what I do, talking to your child every day.” – Grace

“You have had to care for a child in ways that you never expected you’d be able to do. You have more strength, more patience, more endurance and more love to give than you could ever have imagined before having your child. Amongst the heartache, celebrate the joy of being a mum to your precious child and celebrate the treasures that they brought to your life, both when they were with you and now that they’ve gone.” Michelle

How do you like to honour and celebrate their lives?

“We visit the cemetery on special occasions, and we write on balloons to send messages to Luke, which really helped us all but particularly his sisters when they were young.

“Luke loved baking and cooking and not long before he passed away, we baked a special cake. For birthdays and celebrations, we bake Luke’s cake.” – Anita

“We talk of Isla often and laugh and cry together as a family. We have photos up of her. On her birthday we go away for the weekend to remember her, where we always have a birthday cake and sing happy birthday. On the anniversary of her death, we have a special dinner to remember her. During the year we go and visit her at the cemetery and take flowers for her.” – Michelle

What does having a day that acknowledges bereaved mums mean to you?

“I think it is really important to acknowledge bereaved mums.” – Anita

“Even though our child has died, we are still their mother, and we still love them deeply. This is especially true to mums whose first child has died when there is no longer a child in the family unit. The mother continues to be a mum and the love for her child has not stopped.” – Michelle

 

Our thoughts are with all bereaved mums today. We hope the lived experience of other parents can bring you some comfort during this difficult time of year.

To find out more information about receiving counselling and emotional support from a family support practitioner, please call 1800 888 875.