Category Archives: Mother’s Day for Bereaved

“You Gave Her a Mother” and Meeting Anne Lamott

for Michele and Evelyn “Evie” Grace

I met Anne Lamott last year when she came to Tattered Covers in Denver on her book tour for her new book Almost Anything: Notes on Hope. For two decades I have been reading Lamott, and I wanted to tell her that her books were a light in my darkest time.

In 2014 after my newborn daughter died of trisomy 18, I cycled through several of Lamott’s spiritual memoirs. Her words comforted me late at night when everyone else was sleeping and I was alone with my deep, searing grief. She whispered the right words to me as I faced another dark night of the soul.                   

In The Three Essential Prayers, Lamott writes “Death will not be the end of the story” (23) and “If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved and in charge of so little” (27). Lamott tells us that her “…pastor Veronica says that God always makes a way out of no way” (54). My milk had come in, my baby was buried, and I didn’t know how to walk forward. So I read more of Lamott’s books.

In Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, I read the words “But what if the great secret insider-trading truth is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life?” (39) I knew that this was true. I knew then that I would never get over the moments of my pregnancy knowing that my baby would not live, nor would I ever stop feeling the emptiness of the space where my daughter once was. Lamott quotes Ram Dass who said that “ultimately we’re all just walking each other home” (6). In those weeks and months of walking through my life with one living child after my second full-term pregnancy it was Lamott’s books that were pulling me through, giving me a little hope that I could survive my cracked self and broken heart.

On that night of her book tour, Lamott filled a large Denver church and she made us laugh and tear up. She is such a good speaker. When the few of us who had books to sign lined up (because we had already received our signed copies of her new book before we sat down), I was nervous. I started crying when I stood in front of her. I told her about my Mary Rose and how much her books had meant to me in my raw grief. Annie hugged me and said “You gave her a mother… You gave her a mother…” as she hugged me, and I continued to cry. 

It is Mother’s Day again, the fifth one since my unborn baby was diagnosed with trisomy 18. I remember that first Mother’s Day when I knew that it would be our only one together. My daughter moved inside of me and I sat on a green metal chair on the lawn of our home in Suffolk, Virginia stunned and unsure of my future. I did not know how I would walk through the rest of my pregnancy. I did not know how I would birth my child only to give her up to death. 

There is always a way through, Lamott tells us. For those of us who are holding our losses so tenderly these days, those of us whose mothers and children have died, we have each other. And in our thorny world, thankfully the roses will be blooming again soon.

In her latest book, Almost Everything, Lamott reminds us that “Against all odds, no matter what we’ve lost…no matter how dark the night, we offer and are offered kindness, soul, light, and food, which create breath and spaciousness, which create hope, sufficient unto the day” (189). 

May it be so for all of us. Let’s have a warm cup of tea together.

Interview with the International Grief Institute

 

It was my great honor to be interviewed by Lynda Cheldelin Fell of the The International Grief Institute to discuss Mother’s Day after pregnancy and infant loss. We discussed my pregnancy with Mary Rose, miscarriages, Trisomy 18 and grief.  The link follows.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eChpI__dMl0

To All Women on Mother’s Day

To All Women on Mother’s Day

To the infertile woman.

To the daughter whose mother has died.

To the mother who has miscarried again.

To the mother whose baby has died.

To the women who hate pink flowers and pink ribbons.

To the mother whose children cannot afford to buy candy and flowers.

To the daughter whose mother isn’t loving, understanding, kind.

To the children who have no mothers.

To the only childless sister.

To the woman who isn’t sure she wants children.

To the woman who is getting older and doesn’t know if she has time to have children.

To the teachers, nurses, caretakers, aunts, and all women who mother throughout the year.

To the children who desperately need mothers.

To the homeless, destitute, addicted, incarcerated mothers. To their children.

To the woman who does not get a flower at church or at work or at home, because they think that she is not a mother.

To the mothers of paintings and sculptures and poems and essays and collages and all art.

To all women, let us unite this day, because motherhood should not divide us.

 

 

Mother’s Day: Joyously Connecting with our Loved Ones in Spirit

IMG_2298for Nancy Eagle Spirit Woman

People are writing and posting about Mother’s Day and grief, about International Mothers’ Day for the Bereaved, which was celebrated last week, about the lack of response from our friends, family and community in remembering us during Mother’s Day. I have been thinking about how much importance we give one day, one holiday. I have decided to make a safe space for myself this Mother’s Day. I plan to stay home away from pregnant women and newborns who trigger my trauma. I want to be in my garden with mud underneath my fingernails. I want to be with my son, and I want to be with Mary Rose.

Instead of focusing on the separation that we feel from our loved ones in spirit, this year I will call Mary Rose to me. I will welcome her into my day as an ancestor of light and I will spend my day with both of my children. Lighting a candle is one way to remember our children. Planting a flower or plant is another. I will breathe deeply this Sunday remembering her small body, the sacred hour of her life here on earth, as I celebrate the life that she has now. I know that I will grieve my newborn’s death for the rest of my life, but I want to do so joyously. I cannot change the way that I see the world differently after holding life and death in my arms, but I can reinforce the love that deepens for my daughter. I will stay in a safe space where I can cry and remember my daughter while celebrating my continued role as her mother.

I am thinking more with my heart these days. My reality is shifting from a thinking place of lonely loss to a heart place of loving communion. This year I invite each of you whose children or mothers are not in an earthly body to celebrate anyway. It is my great hope that we can celebrate this Mother’s Day with tearful smiles and an understanding that the veil is thin, that our loved ones are still our children from their heavenly place, even the ones who were miscarried.

My connection to my daughter is deeper this year. She has been at my side as I wept and wrote her book that will soon be released by White Flowers Press. I have been through another year of milestones without her physical body, but she is here.

One night my son said to me “I feel Mary Rose in my heart. My heart is soooo big from the love of my sister.” She continues to be a part of our family. She continues to be my daughter. She is an intercessor helping us in our daily lives. I won’t be able to hear her whispers over the clatter and chatter in a restaurant, so I will be outside on our Earth celebrating quietly knowing that all life has its purpose and continues far beyond the life of the human body. I will listen to the birds’ songs, and notice the peony about to burst open. I too am open. Mary Rose, come…

 

Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Infant Death will be released later this month by White Flowers Press.

 

International Bereaved Mothers Day, Eastern Orthodox Easter and Mother’s Day

glowing_church_candles_187108

It is May 1st and I am with my family celebrating Pascha or Easter. According to our tradition the Last Supper was during Passover and so our holiday comes after Passover each year. It is also International Bereaved Mothers Day, a holiday meant to support women whose children have died, started by Carly Marie. Today women who have faced miscarriages, the death of a child or infertility will be nurtured and remembered. Our Mother’s Day holiday excludes many including the infertile and bereaved, so Carly Marie started this new holiday. However, I’m not so sure that another holiday is what we need. Instead we can open our hearts as a community and remember those around us who suffer from losses with those who have not. If we are united as a community then my own grief is your grief, and we can share in love and joy and sadness together.

As I stood in front of the altar of Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, New York, this morning, I lit one candle for the dead on one side of the holy doors and one candle for the living on the other side, my two children. I thought about my trisomy 18 communities and all the babies who died in the last few weeks. Some were born still, some lived for a moment. I remembered International Bereaved Mothers Day and I had to step outside the side door of church to catch my breath. I have been walking between the living and the dead for so long now it seems that the veil between the worlds is permanently thin. I live in a space with my living and my dead.

Next Sunday, May 8th, is Mother’s Day in the United States. I will stay home with my son and garden and go for a walk. I will remember Mary Rose and my son next Sunday, as I do every day. I cannot separate my own role as a mother to that of a bereaved mother today to celebrate Carly Marie’s day of remembrance, and then celebrate as a joyful mother of a living child next Sunday. I am one woman, and I wish that our culture could operate as one body where we can share our lives with our fellow co-workers, parishioners, friends, family, etc.

Who is the God does wonders? we sang in church today. Our God, our God, our God is so great who does wonders, we reply. Is Mary Rose a wonder of God? Is my dear, living son? I rejoice often that I was chosen to bear Mary Rose, and the grief that I live with, and will continue to live with, is the price I pay for being her mother. I rejoice often for my dear son.

We also sang Let us embrace each other joyously! this morning. This is my hope and my prayer for Pascha, for Mother’s Day. I pray that we can embrace each other joyously in both our sorrows and our joys. I pray that we develop communities that support each other united as one body, instead of comfortably staying in our cliques and rejoicing with new mothers of healthy living children while bereaved mothers and infertile women feel marginalized. We cannot only support people in their joy. We cannot only offer condolences in the aftermath of tragedy. Grief takes time to work itself through. We are all a part of this earth at this particular moment in time, and we can only heal together. May we learn to sit with each other in sorrow and in joy. May we offer love and tea. May it be so every day of the year.

 

For last year’s post Mother’s Day for the Bereaved click here: http://www.diannavagianos.com/blog/?p=95 I discuss celebrating with our loved ones who have died and connecting with their spirits.

Mother’s Day

IMG_0476Mother’s Day

I remember Mother’s Day one year ago when I was surprised by the intensity of my grief. It had been two months since my unborn daughter, Mary Rose, was diagnosed with a fatal illness. I was almost seven months pregnant. She moved inside me; her motions and limbs were tiny. I remember crying outside sitting on my green metal garden chair. I cried all day because I knew that this would be our only Mother’s Day physically together. People often tell me not to cry because I have a son. I am very grateful for my living child, but he cannot take away the grief of his sister’s fate.

This year is different. I’m just starting to come out of more than a year-long daze of shock and grief. I want to tell every mother whose child is gone through miscarriage or illness or accident, Cry. You have earned the right to cry. Well-meaning people tell us not to show our emotions, but we don’t have to hide the intensity of our path.

My dear friend, Daniela, sent me a present this week. It is a crocheted rose with Mary Rose’s name on the back, and it is the first gift that I have received honoring my daughter that hasn’t sent me into fits of weeping. It still stings to see a joyful, pregnant woman or a newborn girl. Doing family things and witnessing children growing and playing and being alive often still hurts. The first holidays after Mary Rose died were almost unbearable, except I’m still here.

Mother’s Day is a tough holiday. It excludes many people. For women who are infertile and childless it is a reminder of what they do not have. For people whose mothers are on the other side of the veil, there is a void, and for those of us whose children have died, what do we do with this rosy, cheery, pastel holiday? I’ve been thinking of my dear friend Louisa all week. Her mother and only son are on the other side of the veils, yet she meditates and lives her life with a vivacious grace that inspires me.

Louisa and I have both connected with the spirits of our children through prayer and meditation. We feel them close by and know that they are now intercessors, spirit guides and helpers, depending on the language you use. This year I propose that instead of listening to our sad thoughts that we are separate from the ones who have died, let’s think with our hearts. Our children’s souls are intact and if we think with our heart centers, reality shifts from a thinking place of lonely loss to a heart place of loving communion. This year I invite each of you whose children or mothers are not in an earthly body to light a candle and celebrate anyway. It is my great hope that we can celebrate this Mother’s Day with tearful smiles and an understanding that the veil is thin, that our loved ones speak to us and send us messages of love from their heavenly place.

I have been listening to Kari Samuels 28 Days of Angel Meditations this month. When she says Archangel Gabriel, please come, I feel such peace. I choose to say Mary Rose, come, and Louisa chooses to say Colin, come. We are not separate from our children who continue to live through us and with us.

I am married to a man who is very sensible and practical, and he’s married to a former English major who sees symbolism everywhere. I carry feathers into the house proclaiming that they are signs from my daughter saying that she loves me. He tells me that birds molt. On New Year’s Day I found a heart shaped rock in the middle of a brick outside when I stepped out of the car after our long trip back from New York. I had asked for a sign from my daughter that she is still with me. I was so sad thinking that this year, 2015, would start without her. I believe that these gifts come from my daughter, but my husband says, Coincidence.

This spring my husband turned the grill on under a flowering dogwood tree. One petal landed in the middle of his big hand and he said it looked like a heart and he thought of Mary Rose. He said that all the dogwood petals looked like hearts this year.

I wish for each of you to find hearts and roses and feathers this Mother’s Day, because our dear children are still our children. They love us, and we are their mothers on this plane, and the Mother’s Day gifts that we receive cannot be found in a Hallmark store.

Come, Sweet Child, Sweet Mother, Aunt, Friend, Come, this Mother’s Day and show us the truth about Life.