Mother’s Day Changes in Years After Child-Loss

January 22, 1979.  October 1, 2000.  As bereaved parents we look at those dates often because they represent our child.  Thinking about this Mother’s Day, I recognize how the meaning of those dates has changed for me over the 9 ½ years since my son Zac’s death.

For 21 years, that birth date represented a day that was not only etched in my memory as one of the best days of my life, but it signified the passage of time that added experiences, memories and events to a life that I witnessed. Of course, like every other parent, I never expected to place that second date next to the first one in my lifetime. When it occurred, I faced uncharted territory. At that time, I did not know how I would arrive ten years down the road, let alone two weeks hence. It’s a journey that must be experienced through individual coping, resilience and choices.

Obviously, when that second date was added to Zac’s identification, not only his physical existence ceased but my life changed in every conceivable way. But, as I progressed through this grief journey, I recognized growth and change in previously unfathomable areas.

On Mother’s Days in the past, I experienced a variety of reactions depending upon the year, my acceptance, my growth and the condition of my heart. In my grief, time both trapped and freed me. While experiencing early grief, I was self absorbed and could not see past my own pain. I was trapped into perceiving Zac’s death in relation to my sadness, my emotions, my pain, my loss and how I felt at the time.

This time was MY time. It trapped me into seeing the entire world only through my loss.  As I began to climb those steps of acceptance, I viewed Zac’s death from his perspective and chose to reframe my grief. However, this reframe required time to accomplish and was another time trap for me.

Once I made the decision to view his death from Zac’s perspective, I wanted to be free of the pain. But grief does not work that way, and making choices in grief does not extinguish the pain! For short periods of time, I could transfer my thoughts from my agony to what Zac must be experiencing in his new and continuing life. I missed him and it was extremely painful. But, as time progressed, I was able to slowly shift the focus from my pain and loss to Zac’s perception of his death.

The steps of acceptance did not automatically remove the fantasies and dreams I imagined for his future but luckily, the process of time helped reaffirm my faith and past spiritual beliefs that could have been swallowed up by my narcissistic universe.

This was a natural process for me but it was not easy. I did not want to live in this much pain so I had to choose differently. Through the pain I was comforted by a quote from Eugenia Price’s book, Getting through the Night: Finding Your Way after the Loss of a Loved One: Birth is natural, illness is natural, failure is natural, grief is natural, but none is easy.

Adjusting to a new life direction required strengths and qualities I did not know I possessed.  Change came through trauma and pain but I have received many gifts through my grief and seeing life through new eyes is only one of them.  I realized that time gave me the opportunity to grow in my grief and develop a different frame of reference.

January 22, 1979 – October 1, 2000. I used to look at Zac’s birth date through eyes that cried and felt the pain of not being able to celebrate another birthday with him. I used to view his death date as the end of my life. But because of choices I consciously made while grieving, I now focus on the area between those dates with respect, love and awe.  I experienced 21 years with this wonderful soul. This was our plan.

I now look at Zac’s death as a life, where before I looked at his death as my sadness.

This Mother’s Day, when I think of Zac I will think of his smile. I will remember those years between the birth and the death dates. Zac was happy with whatever life handed him. Thus his frequent statement, “It don’t matter!” He accepted life, the good, the bad, the lessons.

I’ll probably cry a little on Mother’s Day and miss my Zac, but I’ll focus on his life and not his death.

Chris Mulligan

More Articles Written by Chris

Chris Mulligan received her BS in Psychology and MS in Clinical, Child, Youth, and Family Work from Western Oregon University. Twenty-five years of adoption/social work and mental health experience didn’t prepare Chris for the devastation after the death of her son, Zac, in 2000. The journey through grief changed her, her views of life, death and the afterlife forever. Since Zac’s death, she has documented over eight years of signs and communication with Zac, her spirit guide, Samuel and others on the other side. She lives in Newberg, Oregon, with her husband, Jim and their dogs, Chiquita and Joe. Chris can be reached at [email protected] or through her website, http://Afterlifebooks.com/. Chris appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Afterlife Agreements.” To hear Chris being interviewed on this show, click on the following link:

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  • Kim Hodne says:

    This article really spoke to me. I feel I am at that point in the grief journey- (six years) since we lost our son to suicide. He was also born in 1979 and lived until 2/1/2004. I can now see his life as a gift to us for 24 yrs.- not still focused on how he died.
    This article got me through Mother’s Day and I sent it on to some family and friends.
    Thank you!

  • Regina says:

    I really wish I had read this for mothers day that just passed. It has been a difficult journey. I don’t know where to start…but it started on 01/02/2010 when my Cassie-Mae was pronounced at Children’s Hospital due to swelling of her brain from keytoacidosis. She was a diabetic for 10 of her 15 years here on this earth. My dates are 10/10/1994 DOB 09/09/1999 DODiagnosis 01/02/2010 DOD. The hardest part for me are all of the bittersweet moments. She started a ripple affect that would never have been without her life, diagnosis, or death. So I am just thankful that I was and will always be her mother…proud till the day I am reunited with her…..it just is so hard to keep going sometimes….not being able to accept the change changes daily….but it has only been 4 months but i seem to worsen with time…hoping I will survive those milestone dates that are ahead and get to the five year plan of whatever that is now…