May: The Unusually Difficult Month

For the bereaved parent, May is frequently the cruelest month. The month of May offers the rest of the world a promise of another carefree summer, swimming, family vacations, relaxation, reading, cook-outs and picnics, trips to the lake and so much that is inherent in our culture.

Yet May also brings memories of our children. The common denominator for mothers (and fathers) is Mother’s Day. This tradition was wonderful when our children were alive; now the direct mail and newspaper advertising, sentimental television spots, in-store promotions, cards and letters and the countdown to the day itself are very cruel reminders of our lost children. Who will remember us on Mother’s Day?

This will be my fourth Mother’s Day without my son. I miss him terribly all year long, but May and December are the worst months for me. First we have Mother’s Day, then my son’s birthday and throughout the month I am bombarded with invitations for high school and college graduations…..each one reminding me of what once was. My son finishing grade school, high school, college, graduate school. Each was accompanied by a ceremony. All the ceremonies rush into my mind as I realize how much of myself is my memories and those memories are very entwined with my son’s life. A big part of me died with him that night in December.

Three years ago I was overwhelmed, sobbing, still occasionally in deep shock. My mind was mush, my heart was crushed and I did not have the will to do much more than quietly weep. It was my first Mother’s Day without my son, the first birthday that he wasn’t here, the first Memorial Day Weekend without him. I was paralyzed. May would never be joyful for me again.

What to do….what to do. I ask myself this question each April as we begin the ramp up to the longest month. This year, I am counting out the last days of April and wondering how I will handle it. I am not worried about it; I am just wondering. I have gotten used to the transformation that has taken place in my mind, heart and soul. I experienced a slow spiritual awakening which accompanied a deep, deep sense of loss over which I have no control. I go with it.

There are questions that we must ask ourselves. The answers are unique to us. Collectively we know this is a month to dread; individually we have our own memories and our own methods of coping. Collectively we lean on each other for hope, comfort and support. Individually, we each walk our own road depending on how many circumstances of life are in our month of May: Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, birthdays, death anniversaries, graduations, weddings, baptisms, first communions, confirmations, how we handled the beginning of summer, the end of the school year…..all of these events can bombard us in May.

The memories float into our minds like a mist that thickens into a heavy fog. We are enveloped in our fog of memories; the before death years come to us in a hodgepodge of the happiest times and clash with the reality of now. These are our memories, our children and ultimately our choices. And there seems to be little joy we can take from this month of memories.

Once again, we make the decision. If we are not ready to acknowledge Mother’s Day, we shouldn’t do it. If we are facing other days in May that will tear at our hearts, we must plan for it. Some of us prefer to be alone and isolated. Others of us prefer to be with friends or family. Some of us go to the cemetery, others go to the park. Some read, watch movies, sit on the deck or simply rest. Others take a weekend trip which puts them into a different state of reality.

There are as many choices as there are parents who have lost their children. Consider your options. Be honest with yourself. Don’t be pushed into anything. Take control. We each move forward toward hope at a different rate and in a different way. This is not about meeting the expectations of others; this is a personal journey toward peace and hope. It is your journey.

I will always miss my son. I will always feel deep sorrow at his uncompleted life. But I know that he would want me to move forward, move back into the sunshine that is life on this earth. I’m working on it. Be patient with me. This is the most difficult road I have ever walked, but I am in motion, moving mostly forward and seeking something akin to peace, hope and tranquility. I will always be a work in progress.


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Comments (6)

  • I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my son, my only child 1/1/11 complications from Type I Diabetes. He was only 21. Mother’s Day is a very hard day for me. Sean’s Birthday was May 3rd (which is usually the week before Mother’s Day). He died on New Year’s Day and the last time I actually saw him was on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. So pretty much all of my holidays are hard. 10 Year’s now and I still have those days where I find myself crying just as hard as the day he died.
    Sending you hugs mom.

  • 14 years…. May 14 will be 14 years since we lost Taylor, instantly and tragically in a motorcycle accident in the wee hours of the morning (or middle of the night) after Mother’s Day 2007. I’m doing so much better with my grief walk year after year. But when May 1 comes around, my heart breaks over again and I am just “sad”. I don’t think the month of May will have anything for me to celebrate any longer. I just have to get through it, at least through the 14th. I didn’t do well at all the first 10 or so years and his younger sister had to take care of her grieving Mother when she, herself, needed to have her own grief walk. About 3 years ago, she implored of me, “Let’s stop letting Mother’s Day be about losing Taylor. Let us celebrate you. Let’s be happy together for this day. I promised her I would, and I think I did. She had moved out of state, found a great guy, got a degree, got married, had a baby and we celebrated. Any grief I felt I kept in or experienced before Mother’s Day so we could celebrate me. It was liberating. Did I still miss Taylor – yes – he should have been here for all these celebrations. Only 21 when he died, each year, I remember his birthday and how old he would be now, if only….
    This year will be my first without being in the presence of either of my children. It is my daughter’s first Mother’s Day, and she suggested that we let her spend it with her husband and daughter this year. I understand, yet I grieve. I have invited a good friend to come spend the weekend with us and planned some fun things to do. But Mother’s Day, I want to just stay home and cook and maybe remember some fun things that happened on that last Mother’s Day when the family was complete. Last time I saw him after a wonderful dinner he helped to shop for and cook. Walking up the stairs, Mountain Dew in hand. Good-night Taylor. Night mom.

  • I understand completely. Bucko’s birthday is May 7th, our anniversary is May 15th, 2 sons have anniversaries, 1 granddaughter has a birthday and 2 great-grands have birthdays. We are blessed to have other sons, but Bucko is forever 16 when he should have been 54 this year. And. yes, all the mundane celebrations that require a happy face when I would rather hide in my room. Thank you.

  • Thank you Annette. This will be my FIRST Mother’s Day without my son and although I’m trying to focus on his sister, who is a mother herself and who was his only sibling…I’m scared. It hurts everyday. Thank you for reminding me to take my time and to be gentle with my pain.

  • Just read your thoughts about the month of May. I could relate to everything you said.

  • Thank you for another informative blog. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal way? I have a project that I am just now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such info.

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