It’s Ok to Talk About Him on Mothers’ Day

My son died, but I am still his mother

Mother's Day 2010 will always stand out from all the others. It was the last Mother's Day I had with Joey, my oldest son.

The previous year, when he was just 5 years old, we found out Joey had an inoperable brain tumor. On that Mother's Day, I didn't want him leave my side. I was relieved he was still happy and lucid. But exactly a month later, he died.

Holding my child as he took his last breath was the absolute worst thing I have ever endured. I think about it every day. Some moments and days are much harder for me than others – his birthday, his diagnosis date, the "crapiversary" of his death. But every holiday, every special day he is not here with me to give me one of his trademark tight hugs, is one that cuts my mama heart to its core.

Sadly, I know I'm not alone. Many other mothers will have empty arms this Mother's Day as well. They will be missing a child who is supposed to be running into their rooms with a wobbly tray of toaster waffles next to a vase with one single flower plucked from the yard. Even though some of these mothers have other children, their hearts and hands will never be full because someone who is supposed to be there is missing.

I love it when people talk to me about Joey. When they tell me they can see his smile in his brothers, it makes me happy. When they recall a memory about meeting Joey or something funny he did, it makes me smile. When they tell me they know that he's still with me in my heart, it gives me comfort.

What makes me sad is when people completely ignore the fact that I had a fifth child. I know there are people who are uncomfortable with death – especially the death of a child – so they would rather not acknowledge it at all. But there are other ways to show me you're thinking of me on Mother's Day or any special day.

Hug me. Squeeze my hand. Send me a card. Give me a flower. Make a donation in my child's name to a children's charity or wish-granting organization. Any gesture done out of love will suffice.

What I love most, though, is to talk about my child. There is a grief saying that begins, "Please talk about my loved one, even though he is gone. It is more comforting to cry than to pretend that he never existed."

If you're worried about saying something wrong, don't be. The worst thing you can do is not say anything at all. Please know it's ok to talk about him to me – on Mother's Day and any day.