Mothering Sunday after ‘losing’ a child

"As a Mother you will keep the memories and the essence of that beloved being in your heart forever and you can never lose that!" - Cruse Scotland volunteer counsellor, Lilian McDade, shares a blog on how she keeps the memories of her son alive on Mother's Day, and all year round.

March 17, 2023

Mother’s Day is an emotional event for all of us, given that we have all had, or have a Mother, and that many of us have also been, or still are, a mum! It was a day I always looked forward to in past years, a day to look for a beautiful card and gift for my own Mother followed by a lovely visit to see her in person – however, when my Mum died many years ago now, that changed for ever as we can never replace a Mother and that special day becomes tinged with sadness.

When my own children were born, I enjoyed Mothering Sunday again as they made little cards and gave me flowers or chocs and that was great until the death of my younger son who died from a virus when only 21 years old. The ‘loss’ of a child (of any age!) is a devastating event and changes life for ever! You will note that I put the word ‘loss’ in inverted commas and that is because you do lose the physical presence of your child but as a Mother you will keep the memories and the essence of that beloved being in your heart forever and you can never lose that!

In a way I was lucky because I love cards and can’t bear to throw special ones away so I had kept almost every Mother’s Day card my son had ever given me from hand-made cards in Primary school years to the last one he gave me the year he died. That one is particularly memorable because he had bought a birthday card which he particularly liked and just scored out the words “Happy Birthday” and wrote in “Happy Mother’s Day” – it brings a smile to my face every year!

Every Mother’s Day I put up the cards he gave me (as well as those my other children still bring) and that helps me get through the day and rekindles happy memories of when he was physically here. It is still a day of mixed emotions and my husband thoughtfully buys me a card each year and puts Daniel’s name on it and that is a great comfort – love and care from those around us does help immensely!

Some mothers will visit the grave of their child and that can be very helpful. My son’s ashes were scattered on the Campsie Hills and if the weather is fine we will go there and lay flowers on the windy hillside and go to the Crematorium to look at the page with his name in the Book of Remembrance as we do on the anniversary of his death which is only a week after Mother’s Day. (Staff will helpfully turn the page to the appropriate date).

I once watched a programme by Grayson Perry, the artist, who led a group of grieving relatives around the familiar places where the loved one had spent time during his life on Earth and I have tried this myself, doing a little road trip to the school my son attended, the loch where he had a few sailing lessons, the house we lived in when he was young and all this brings him close to me on this special day. Playing music that I associate with him is good too, even if it includes some Savatage and Eminem tracks!!

I created a box of my son’s little treasures after he died – there are not that many as he tended to lose things as a young man! (eg his gold neck chain, his driving licence and a succession of Zippo lighters and wallets that family members bought him but which he ‘lost’ in clubs and pubs when with his friends!) I will look at the remaining items on Mother’s Day and at some of the photos of him placed around my house (one even inside the cupboard where I hang my coats!) and remind myself of the never-ending, ever enduring bond of Love that exists between my son and I which is so important to me – and to him too I believe!!

Mothers should never be afraid to display their on-going love and grief for a child who has left the physical body and, hopefully, moved into another stage of life or dimension where they may still exist – that love is a powerful force and coming to terms with the ‘loss’ of a child who was formed within us is one of the most major tasks of a mother’s life. Once the initial devastating shock and pain of your child’s death begins to subside a little and as a bereaved Mother you begin to adapt to a life without your loved one, that ‘coming-to-terms’ can eventually enhance the life force, empathy, wisdom and inner development of a grieving Mother and bereaved mothers should be praised and celebrated as their grief and loss is arguably the most painful that a human being can endure!

Mothering Sunday after ‘losing’ a child

About the Author

Lilian McDade - Cruse Scotland Volunteer

Lilian is a Person Centred Counsellor/Therapist who completed her Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling in 2002. She had previously counselled with Cruse in the 1990's and later at the Tom Allan Centre and the Marie Curie Hospice, returning to Cruse in 2017.

In 2002, Lilian's son Daniel suddenly died, aged 21, from a virus and through that loss and the aftermath, she decided that she wanted to concentrate on Bereavement Counselling. Lilian has always been interested in the 'mysteries' of life and death and wrote her dissertation at University (in her 40's) on "Western Attitudes to death" - being aware that, in our Scottish culture, the rituals of grieving have been lost with the general decline in religion, leaving many bereaved people trying to deal with a loved one's death without the background support and comfort of a belief system. Having been through the devastation of the loss of a child, Lilian believes that she can understand and support those who are in the throes of finding their way through grief.