Edwina Symonds is a NSW northern beaches mum-of-three, including Sebastian, who died in 2018 from an 'inexplicably rare' genetic error when he was 10 months old. These are her words:
Here we go again. Every retail outlet in your virtual and literal vision is pushing Mother's Day paraphernalia.
This day makes school kids excitedly choose crap presents at the school market, or make ghastly craft for the fridge. Dad's waffle around shopping centres deciding if mum really wants an updated blender or if new PJ's will cut it.
It is a day to celebrate the simple and overwhelming gift that motherhood is, but many mums experience the day without a child in their arms. Mums' who have lost a child - from death, a stillborn, miscarriage - can experience the gamut of emotions as the day approaches.
Am I a fraud for saying I am a Mother? Did I fail the Mothering test by losing my baby? Why did this happen to me? What if, what if, what if?
The isolation that bereaved mums feel is paramount in the 'year of firsts' without their child and Mother's Day is when those around us can shy away from our pain and hope from afar that we are OK.
This is not the warm embrace we need.
Here are a few small ways you can help create new meaningful memories on Mother's Day for mums who are grieving:
Say our child's name
As your mother taught you - use your words! If you're not strong enough to say it face-to-face, say it in a card, text, song, in the sand, however you chose.
Send a memory, send a photo, simply tell us you are thinking of our baby.
Our children's names don't get yelled across playgrounds, or show up on the daily daycare downloads, so please say it freely and often. Say it with a smile.
Acknowledge Mother's Day
A simple text in the lead up or a call on the day is validation from others that we are of course a Mother, despite our loss. One of the strongest lifelines you can offer right now.
Food always wins
Bake, send food vouchers, bring lunch!
Grief is exhausting no matter how much time has passed.
When these significant days roll around each year, that tiredness sweeps back over us like a 20kg hiking pack.
We get foggy, we forget to eat, we forget to manage the simple things.
Help us, gently
Menial tasks can feel overwhelming, so please help us without fanfare.
Take the load of washing home to your house and return it clean and folded.
Check the fridge in case we need milk or eggs. Make our bed.
Take our other kids after school one day.
Throw away the wet tissues (and replace the box with Aloe Vera Kleenex - there is no substitute!). Simple love acts like these are beyond measure when sadness feels overwhelming.
Reframe your own language
Condolence is a sport at which many players are plain crap. We lump our own emotions inward to the grieving, which is precisely what not to do. Nothing you say will take away our pain, so there is no "right" thing to say. But being conscious of your own words can ensure that you are not impacting us unnecessarily.
The thought behind condolence always comes from a good place, but aim for your own words come out in a more positive light.
Sentiments of "I wouldn't know how to go on", sound as though they are a compliment, but they are strange and hurtful. Your overarching communication needs to be: I am here, I wish could, but I cannot take your pain, but I am here.
Refer on if you see signs of a struggle
You can't do it all. Be conscious that you aren't a professional, and you don't have all the answers. And likely, in fresh situations you too are grieving.
These organisations exist specifically for grieving mums and dads. If you feel your friends need some further support, leave these phone numbers in their eyeline.
You can learn more about Sebby's story and more resources on how to support your grieving friends at thegriefyway.com