Mother’s Day is intended to be a joyful time to celebrate our mothers and motherhood, but for some women Mother’s Day can be a difficult or sad day. There are many women who connect motherhood with the loss of a child through death, abortion, adoption, miscarriage, infertility or some other traumatic experience. These are the hidden mothers in our communities. As we acknowledge the mothers who have their children around them, it is also important to acknowledge these mothers and the grief that may be associated with the day for them.
If you are one of these women, you know that Mother’s Day can be a difficult day, but it is also a day that you can begin to transform your grief and begin a healing process. While it’s not easy, here are some steps to consider.
First, acknowledge your grief and let yourself really get in touch with the sense of loss and your feelings associated with it. Your loss is real. Give yourself permission to grieve. As difficult as it might be to do this, it is so important. Part of the healing process is being able to tolerate the difficult emotions and get through it, rather than trying to figure out a way to get around it, and you can’t do this if you don’t admit to yourself just how deeply you are hurt. Sometimes the emotions can be intense, but you want to allow yourself to sit with them.
Once you recognize the depth of your own pain, share your loss with others. Talk about it. If you can’t talk about it with everyone, start by talking about it with the people closest to you. If you can’t discuss it with those closest to you, seek out a professional therapist or support group. Talking about difficult emotions helps us to work through them and transform them.
Give yourself permission to think of yourself as a mother. Motherhood is about nurturing. Even if you have lost your child or have not given birth to a child, you can still nurture. You can love and nurture other people’s children: nieces and nephews, children in the foster care system, or children part of the Big Brother/Big Sister Program, for example. Sometimes, though, healing can come from the simple act of nurturing life in other forms such as connecting with the earth by planting seeds or caring for a pet. Any opportunity for sharing love and nurturing another thing that God has created for us can become an outlet.
As mentioned, turning to professionals and peers for support can really help with the healing process, and Catholic Charities and the Diocese of Camden have some good resources. A few are listed below.
Catholic Charities Counseling Services
Catholic Charities can provide counseling for women who have placed a child for adoption, experienced abortion, or who are experiencing grief related to the loss of child. To learn more, visit CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/Counseling-Services.
Catholic Charities Adoptions Research and Reunion
Women who placed a child for adoption through Catholic Charities can contact us to try to learn about the child who was placed and to potentially arrange for a reunion. We are also able to help women to decide whether or not they are ready to pursue a search for the child they placed for adoption.
Learning about, or even meeting, the adopted child can be a major source of healing and closure for women who placed children for adoption many years ago, sometimes under difficult circumstances. If you placed a child for adoption through Catholic Charities, we can help you consider whether this might be an option for you. To learn more visit CatholicCharitiesCamden.org/Adoption-Services.
For women who have had abortions, the grief or loss they may experience is often faced in silence. These women often don’t feel they have permission to speak about their loss. Many are uncomfortable talking about it except with other women who have had the same experience.
Rachel’s Vineyard offers spiritual retreats for women who have experienced abortion. They provide the opportunity for women to talk about what they may be feeling with others who understand. Retreats are offered by dioceses all over the country throughout the year in English and Spanish. To learn more visit www.RachelsVineyard.org.
Sylvia Loumeau, MSW, LCSW, is director of Catholic Charities Adoptions and Counseling Services.