photos by Purple Peony Photography and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
Amelia Kowalisyn is the mother of two sets of twins, Alex (who is two) and Emma Rose (who is loving her family from up in Heaven), and Cameron and Christian (who are due this July). In addition to the loss of Emma at 23 days old, their family has experienced four miscarriages. Amelia and her husband Joe started their charity Emma’s Footprints shortly after the loss of their daughter to provide support to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and bereaved parents. Amelia was also the director of outreach of the On Coming Alive Project and speaks openly and honestly about her journey as a bereaved parent. You can find Amelia on Facebook and Instagram.
After our twin daughter Emma died at just 23 days old, life was tough. It was a daily struggle to take care of my newborn son, take care of myself, and face the milestone moments that life hits you with after loss. Those holidays and big moments that make you want to crawl in a hole and escape all the pain in your heart that no person, no mother, should ever have to feel.
Mother’s Day was one of those. We went to church as we did every Sunday, and just like each Sunday since we had lost Emma, we sat in the back and I did my best to hold it together. But seeing the little girls, seeing the families who had no clue how fortunate they were, seeing the happy children running around, was heartbreaking. I had always wanted to be a mother. I had envisioned Mother’s Day with children beside me dressed in adorable clothes and a heart so full it could burst.
Instead, we went straight from church to the cemetery with our sweet boy Alex to visit his sister before we headed to brunch and tried to make what we could of what we both knew was bound to be an emotional day.
In what world is that normal? In what chapter of all the motherhood and pregnancy books I had read did it ever talk about a mother visiting her child at the cemetery, on Mother’s Day of all days? They didn’t because it’s not the norm. It’s not OK, and it is gut-wrenching.
To the loss mommas out there reading this, I know your pain. I know that you have been in my shoes and you get just how devastating this day that is meant to celebrate you as you hold your child in your arms is. This is unnatural. Where is the card that says I’m sorry for your heart this Mother’s Day as you celebrate yet another one without your child here on earth? What gift is there that can ever make up for that emptiness in your soul as you do this time and time again?
Maybe you have other children here with you or maybe you don’t and that void is even stronger each year. Whatever your journey is, I’m so sorry that you know what a trigger this day, which should be innocent and lovely, truly is for so many of us.
I don’t pretend to have the answers, but here is what I do know: don’t feel like you should put on a strong front for others this Mother’s Day, or on any other holiday for that matter. It’s OK to be broken, it’s OK to be sad and stay home. There is no one in this world who can tell you what is acceptable behavior in moments like this besides yourself. Listen to your heart.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in the past two years since we lost our Emma is that the only person whose true opinion of me matters is God’s and He is not going to look down on me for struggling with missing my daughter. I hear from so many loss mommas out there how they feel the pressure from family to move on. Let me make it clear that there is no “moving on” after losing a child. There is, however, a time when your heart will begin to mend, you will find joy again, and these holidays and milestones like Mother’s Day, although difficult, will not leave you feeling so completely shattered.
But until that day comes, please be gentle with yourself. Especially this Mother’s Day, please know that you aren’t alone and there are so many of us out there who understand your pain. Give yourself grace to take the day slow, to spend it how you feel comfortable.
And most important, please know that no matter what, you are still a mother. Your child’s life is important. This day is still celebrating you, momma, and the love you have for your baby, no matter how long they were with you, or whether you held them in your arms or your heart. Happy Mother’s Day to all of those out there that more than anyone else deserve to be recognized on this day, because being a bereaved mother is the hardest challenge any mother could ever have to face.