Cathy’s husband died in April 2013. Her children Ben, Ella and Lucy were 6, 4 and 2 at the time.
“When my husband was alive, he would go out and buy a present for me on the children’s behalf for Mother’s Day. Now I’m on my own, I have pared Mother’s Day right down – I just want it to be easy for the children. Last year was our first Mother’s Day without their Daddy. I primed the flower shop in our village, and said that if I sent the children in with £15, would they help them choose a nice bunch of flowers? I told them the circumstances, that I was widowed, and they were more than happy to help.
My son, Ben, my eldest, organised breakfast in bed for me – some cereal, an orange and a glass of milk – it was very sweet, and they gave me the cards they’d toiled over at school. We didn’t go out for lunch – I don’t want to be in a pub or a restaurant with families and fathers having their Sunday lunch. You don’t want to come face to face with families who’ve got their missing person who you don’t have, which can make things feel worse. So I cooked a Sunday lunch at home, and we watched a movie together in the afternoon. I expect it will be similar this year – I’m quite matter of fact about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day anyway – it’s like any other day really, and I didn’t find it particularly upsetting but I’m sure other parents might find it hard. In a way it’s different for me, because my husband was an alcoholic, and had relapsed. So that last year was such a dreadful year – he hadn’t really been a part of it anyway – and there had been so much uncertainty. It kind of felt like we had already done Mother’s Day and Christmas on our own.
The key thing for me on Mother’s Day is making a fuss of the cards the children have made for me and making them feel that I’m not missing out. I don’t want them to feel they’re not ‘doing it properly’ because there isn’t another adult to help them. I remember them rushing around to lay the table nicely for lunch in their own way, and I was trying to show how impressed I was with what they’d done.
We have moved house since my husband died and I find, for instance at Christmas, that making new little traditions can be helpful – starting in a new way. I didn’t want presents for Mother’s Day – I raised no expectations of the children – that would have added another layer of burden on their shoulders. In fact I think I probably lower their expectations as to what I expect. All that hype about ‘Mum gets to put her feet up’ and ‘someone else does all the cooking’ – I didn’t want to buy into any of that sort of thing with them.
The support we received from Child Bereavement UK has been brilliant. We attended their family support groups (CHYPS). The children have loved it and got a lot out of it, and it really reinforced the message I was giving them – that it’s OK to have the feelings you have. Not the usual things you hear such as ‘It will pass’ or ‘Daddy’s gone to a better place’ or any of that nonsense. We are tempted to try and protect our children from the truth, but in actual fact, I don’t feel that it helps them at all in the long term. Children can be vulnerable, but I don’t think we give them enough credit sometimes. When my husband was relapsing, I tried to tell them the truth as best I could. I’m really glad I did; as they’re growing up and learning more, they’re asking more questions. They can look back and know that I was honest with them – I have that trust with them.
It’s also good for children to know that there are other children out there who are in a similar situation to them. It was when Ben said “I wish we knew some other children that don’t have a Daddy” that I called Child Bereavement UK. All the children in the support groups are in the same situation. The support has really helped – they have a very clever way of getting the children to talk about their different emotions, and the children are getting stronger. It’s been really good.”