Tag Archives: mother

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Mother’s Day 2015

I was on my AskMaryMac Facebook page and found a friend who mentioned how distraught she was that Mother’s Day was approaching and how much she missed her Mom.

She specifically spoke about how she would send her orchids each year and could no longer send them to her.

I decided to comment on her post:

“I have an idea. What if you took the money you were going to spend on orchids and bring Mother’s Day balloons to several women in a retirement or nursing home who have no children to receive anything from. Perhaps their children have predeceased them and they feel the same pain you now feel. Can you imagine all the love you would share when you see the delight on their faces when someone as wonderful as you took the time to make their day. It’s one of the greatest experiences you will ever have. Promise.”

Every moment we have the chance to make someone feel good about themselves, even when we feel so badly. It might take a little research to find a local center, but walking into women’s rooms with a colorful balloon that they could look at for weeks to come will bring joy to them. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than to surprise a strange with such kindness.

Those ‘random acts of kindness’ bring life to others…and to you. Try it. And then comment below as to what happened and share it with all of us.

Happy Mother’s Day to those who are Moms, those whose Moms aren’t with us any longer, all those who were briefly Moms before the miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death of their child or children, those Moms whose adult children have died, and those who want so much to experience the joy of being called a Mom but are struggling to become pregnant.

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Grieving Children Helping Grieving Children

I received this note from 20 year-old Maeve last evening…

Mary Mac,

Hello, my name is Maeve. I am 20 and I just recently lost my aunt to cancer. She was the mother to four children, two sets of twins. The older two and girls, aged 13. The younger two are a girl and boy, aged 12. I worry about them knowing the struggles and pain they are enduring and will endure. I am traveling tomorrow (Friday) to see them and to attend my aunt’s funeral (Saturday). I am not sure what I should say to them, what will resonate or what will not sound genuine, so I look to you for guidance on this tough time. Thank you for all you do. All the best.

~~~~~~~~~

My Dearest Maeve,

I can’t imagine the pain you are enduring just now having experienced the death of your beloved Aunt, more than likely at a rather young age herself. And to have four small children who will grieve their mother’s death, is tragic as well.

When death strikes our life, whether it is anticipatory, as in the case of cancer and illness, or sudden, as in the case of murder or suicide, the finality of it all is still jarring and fills us with struggle to know what the right thing to do is when we help our fellow mourners.

First of all, may I say, that for a young woman of your age to reach out to me in her own grief, seeking answers as to how best to help her cousins in ‘their’ grief, tells me you are an amazingly compassionate woman. And because of this character trait that you possess, I am certain you will exude deep empathy and care for them.

But there are a few things you may wish to know.

Every child (and adult) grieves in a different manner.

So it will be unlikely that each of your cousins will deal with this in the same way. For example, one may wish to be pensive and sit alone to deal with it. Another may be the gracious host to greet those attending the services. Another may wish to give the eulogy as their act of remembrance, while another may wish to write notes and tuck them into the casket.

What you say and how you touch a person at this time can be anchored in their mind for a very long time.

When we are in a highly emotional state, sometimes subtle things stay with us. So it’s important to be careful with our words.

Well wishers who attend the services and funeral sometimes think it is their job to come up with some ‘pat’ phrase which will ultimately make them feel better but actually causes the grieving person more harm than good.

Phrases like “It was God’s will” or “Well at least she’s not suffering any more” or “At least she’s at peace” or “God never closes a door without opening a window” or “Just give it to the Lord” or “Everything happens for a reason” or “It’ll get easier with time” all leave me with the horrible inclination to smack someone. Sorry…

Maeve, the most appropriate thing to say are words that cannot sting. Words like, “I’m so sorry.” “I can’t imagine what’s you’re going through.” “I wish I could take away the pain.” “I’m going to miss her.”

Speak from your heart. Don’t try to make it perfect for the other person because you can’t. This is one thing you absolutely cannot fix. You don’t have any control over the death of your Aunt, nor over how your cousins and other relatives will feel, but you do have wisdom to not make it worse.

Be with them.

I know this sounds like such a simple thing, but the most powerful thing you can do when someone has died is to actually be present with those who are mourning. And that includes you.

Spend time together in silence. Not saying anything may feel strange at first because you feel the need to fill in the gaps of silence but don’t. Let the pain be present. Let the moment go where it’s going to go.

Let the sorrow be felt. Let the tears come. Don’t try to hold them back. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to make it all right in some manner, because you just can’t.

Allow whatever is going to happen, happen. Have the faith that each of your cousins will have the experience they personally need to have to deal with their Mother’s death.

But by you being genuine and kind and loving, they will always remember your compassion. They will always remember how you took the time to travel so far to be with them at one of the most devastating times in their life.

So ultimately, my dear Maeve, it’s not the words as much as it’s about the love. The care. The tenderness. Your presence.

Attend to their needs. Ask them if you can get them anything. Bring them water at the funeral home. Make life easier for them when you can.

Talk aloud about their Mother.

When you all get together for a meal, or back at the house, don’t be afraid to bring up her name out loud and speak about wonderful memories you may have experienced with your Aunt. Even though folks may cry, it’s ok. Nothing is more precious than sharing stories which will make others feel better.

“Do you remember when Aunt and I did this?” “Do you remember when you and your Mom did that?” “I will always remember when Aunt gave me that beautiful bracelet for Christmas.”

Lastly, share your grief, too.

It’s perfectly fine to say things like “I will miss her so much” or “I wished we had lived closer so I could have spent more time with all of you” or “I’m glad she was my Aunt, she was a magnificent person”.

Remember, Maeve, as much as you want to be there for your cousins, you are grieving also. Feel your feelings, too. Give yourself permission to grieve, also.

Mary Mac

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Bittersweet Mother’s Day

When Mother’s Day swings around I usually have mixed emotions.

I’m grateful that my own mother is still with me, along with the other ‘mothers’ I have the privilege to still enjoy…my Aunt, my Godmother, and my friend Jeanne, all who really ‘get’ me since I’m anything but conventional in my thinking.

But my heart is with women, today, who are reminded that ‘motherhood’ hasn’t worked out quite as they’d expect. And I’ve met many who have had these experiences; some have had a few.

Like the lady who has lost a child, or one whose only child or all her children have died. The one who never knew her mother because her mother died before she was old enough to meet and enjoy her.

Or the woman who never had the honor to even becoming pregnant for a whole host of reasons. And the one who is still able to bear children but can’t keep a pregnancy or get pregnant to begin with.

We look at loss in many different ways; we see things others don’t see on these types of occasions. We don’t bring it up in conversation, instead we simply let it remain buried deep inside where a lot of that pain still sits.

My mother has graciously gotten to the point where she’ll wish me a Happy Mother’s Day with the caveat, ‘because you are a mother to many’ which is her way of soothing that wound and I’m at a place where I might well up with a tear or two but at least it’s not the piercing pain that I once had years ago.

Sometimes it’s not an actual loss of a mother, for some, that is difficult to grieve. It can also be what hasn’t occurred that can sting on a day like today.

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Newtown, CT: Holiday Rollercoaster

I sit here looking out to the window. Anticipated bad weather is on the move toward us. My mind is racing in so many directions I don’t know which one I should or could concentrate on.

I’m exhausted.

The happenings of this past week have been something I never thought I would ever have to endure. Not for me or for my husband. We were just going along swimmingly well, raising our daughter until this.

My mind is definitely not wrapped around this yet. I guess I have to expect this, but somehow I wish I could just be in control of something at this point and the thought that I won’t be for a very long time disturbs me immensely.

Since the identification, it has been a whirlwind. Between the family and friends who flocked to us (which we are so grateful for), to picking out a casket, to the services, to the funeral and all the people who attended.

I feel numb.

I feel small.

I feel like I’m just existing.

Mostly I feel fragile.

I’ve never felt like this before and for me, it’s not a good feeling. It’s a when-will-this-end, I-can’t-stand-this-feeling, sort of situation. One I never saw coming, one I never thought I would live.

Well, actually, how could anyone see such a thing coming into your life. No one ever teaches you what you will do, how you will feel, what will happen and how you are supposed to live if your child is murdered.

They just don’t. Maybe because they think it will never happen to you. Maybe because the thought of it is frankly so unthinkable that no one wants to go there.

How does one tell you how to pick out a casket for your child. How does one tell you how to go to memorials for your child. How does one tell you how to bury your only daughter.

It just doesn’t compute. It just doesn’t.

This past week has been unbelievable. I felt like I was just ushered around by the well-meaning people in my life. And, actually, I was.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget moving in slow motion through the funeral home, first to the director’s office to start the planning and then to another room to choose the casket. It was something I hadn’t yet experienced, as both my parents are alive. It was something no one should have to go through.

All the little details seemed overwhelming. I looked at my husband and he wasn’t the only one whose eyes were filled with tears. Somehow we made all the decisions that would bring to a conclusion the life of a child we thought we’d know forever.

From the moment I stepped into the funeral home that day and first saw her in the casket, I felt like I would collapse. How was I going to endure this completely unthinkable pain. How does one look at this little body in this box and think that just a few days ago we were picking out a Christmas tree, just the one she wanted.

I think of all the little things we did together just before this happened. All the sprinkles she decorated on her favorite cookies when they came out of the oven. All the little gifts we bought and wrapped for her friends.

All the presents and cards we picked out for her grandparents, aunts and uncles. As she started to read, she wanted to get the prettiest cards to send to those she loved. I remember helping her read the inscriptions in the card store as her Dad and I patiently went through so many boxes until she chose just the right one.

Will I ever step foot into a card store again and not become sentimental?

I sat in the funeral service and so many people have visited. People I haven’t seen in years and others I see all the time. But the amazing thing is full families have arrived from out of town. Our relatives, friends, old neighbors who spent thousands of dollars to be with us at this time. Hotels, car rentals, food, etc. How are they doing this?

I am grateful. I feel so blessed to know such good people who care so much about my husband and myself.

The viewing days were filled with sitting and looking at her in the casket and being torn between wondering when this would be finished battled by the thought that I’d never want it to be over. Because when it was over, I’d never see or have her again. I didn’t know which was worse as the moments passed.

There were times I wanted everyone to leave so I could have her all to myself. I wasn’t in a sharing mood right now.

I wanted to just jump into the casket with her. I can’t imagine what this life will feel like when she’s not around.

The morning I awoke knowing it would be her funeral, I remember sitting up in bed against the headboard, pillows propped up against my back to realize it was the last day I’d ever see her.

How could I bear this?

How could I get through this day?

How could I endure such pain?

How would I react when it was time to close the casket?

Could I do this?

Could my husband do this?

My thoughts are so isolated. I don’t know how much I’ve shared with him at this point. No much really and he hasn’t either. It’s not good.

We’ve gone through the motions of what needed to be done but at some point the deep, dark, difficult emotions will have to come to the surface, even if only for a little while, and it scares me so to think what we will both say to each other.

That day all I could think about what it was her last day with us. And how I hated that thought because there was absolutely nothing I could do to change it.

The funeral was attended by thousands. I didn’t know that many people could pack into our church at one time.

It was a lovely service, at least what I could remember. I spent too much time looking at her casket trying to remember her little smiling face when she was alive and sitting in the pew between her father and I.

She used to look all around during service in church at the lights and stained-glass windows, as they were her favorites. She just loved the colors of the stained glass in the windows.

I wondered if I would ever be able to set foot in that church again.

The burial was one of the most difficult times for me. When we arrived at the cemetery, the grave was all prepared and there were seats all lined up waiting for us. I had asked for extra seats as I knew how many of our relatives would be with us that day.

The priest did a lovely job at the gravesite but it all seemed so quick to me and I wanted to linger for a long while and even though I had left gravesites more quickly after other funerals, this time I wanted to take the time I needed.

And I did.

I know I made everyone wait on me, but I really didn’t care.

I had to see her buried…completely.

I had to know exactly where she was and that there would never be any doubt in my mind.

So I asked the funeral director to have the workers lower her casket as I watched. My husband thought it would be too much for me, but for some reason, it wasn’t. It was comforting. It was a completion that I felt I would need to do for my daughter, my first born.

The men graciously lowered her down and then started to add the dirt. I asked if I could add some dirt and they let me. Why I needed to do that I will never know. I wanted to be included.

Soon the dirt was smoothed out and we took my and my husband’s roses and placed them at the center of her grave slightly tilted to one side. Two lone roses among the thousands she received at the funeral home.

They looked so appropriate there. I felt good about that. A weird feeling of accomplishment. That I had done everything I could do for her in death as I had in life.

I trust I will see her again one day. But the life I will now need to live without her will never be the life her father and I had planned.

A life that will always feel as though we are missing a piece of our hearts.

A life that will always feel empty and cold since we’ll never know what she would have become.

A life that will always wonder what could have been.

Today we start that new life without her.

I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

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Identification of My Murdered Baby

The Connecticut State police has graciously assigned a member of their force to be with us right now.

In a strange way, it’s comforting to keep the media at bay. In another way, I can’t keep from feeling how much more comforted I would have felt had they been at my child’s side when the shooting began.

Do ‘we’ really need protecting now? I guess so. I surely haven’t seen such a huge amount of media in any one place. Well, at least not in person. For some reason it doesn’t look so large on the television.

My husband encourages me to get dressed. He generously brings my tea to my room. I’m numb.

We have waited for the final word from the police. This is not something I want to hear. Because for some reason, right now, I get to fool myself into believing that this is just a dream. That this hasn’t happened and our daughter is really over at her grandparents visiting for the weekend.

I get to fool myself and my mind gets to fool me into thinking she’s at dance class, or with her aunts and uncles and cousin at some outing. I get to fool myself that she’s still playing down the hall with her dolls and laughing at the funny things she sees in books and on television.

And I know these last moments before I move into this very, very real world will be the last of what I considered a secure world for myself and my family. Something inside tells me it will be a very long time, if ever, when I will wake and feel genuine happiness again. A happiness I took for granted and didn’t even know it…until now.

And I don’t ever think it will be the full sense of happiness that I feel now, because nothing in my life or my husband’s life will ever be the same again. And I can’t seem to shake that thought. I can’t seem to shake the thought that for all time, at least on this earth, I will not see my daughter.

I will miss her smiling face. The one which jumped in bed with us on weekend mornings and who we snuggled with in between us.

I can’t get dressed yet. It feels like if I do, all these luscious thoughts as if my world is just the same as it was when I woke up on Friday, before all this happened, will somehow disappear. I may never get them back.

I want to move into the practical things that I know I must be doing. But I can’t. I just want to sit here forever because then maybe it won’t be real.

My husband needs me to be strong right now…for him and for me. I know this in my soul. I can’t find the way to do this. I can’t let him bear all the burden of the police and medical examiner.

“Get up,” I tell myself. “You can do this.”

I go to him, still in my satin robe. I need his embrace. I need his closeness. I myself feel so infantile right now.

He grabs me. He kisses me on the forehead. I can see he’s been crying. I’m not there for him. That hurts me. I need to be there for him too.

He looks in my eyes and tells me he’s identified her from a picture taken at the scene.

My heart sinks.

We sit together at the kitchen table.

We hold hands.

The tears stream down our faces in silence.

What can be said.

The bubble has burst. This is real now. Very real.

I sense there will be many more very real moments ahead and I don’t know if I’m prepared for them both emotionally and simply physically.

I tell myself I will take them one at a time. I have no choice.