Moms all across the nation are excitedly looking forward to celebrating their Hallmark-perfect, though still undoubtedly diverse, versions of Mother's Day with their kids, who may be just toddlers or adults with families of their own. But there's another subset of moms for whom this holiday of brunches and appreciation opens up an emotional wound that never really healed — and that certainly doesn't fit in with the traditional Mother's Day narrative. They are the ones who have lost a child or experienced a miscarriage, or are living with infertility. So, to support these mothers and remind them that Mother's Day is still Mother's Day when you've lost a child, the Today show collaborated with some of them to create a beautiful, heart-wrenching video tribute to their experiences, their pain, their resilience, and, most importantly, their motherhood.
The video, dedicated "To the mothers with an aching heart, on Mother's Day," is short, but it's packed with emotion. And the heartbreak is raw and visceral, because it features real women coping with their own individual trauma — just as the driving force behind the video, Lexi Behrndt, has done. Behrdt's son Charlie died at 7 months old in 2014. She's also Mom to 4-year-old Lincoln.
"Some days it feels like your pain is invisible," Behrndt, who narrates the video, says as it opens. "It feels like this burden is too heavy. It feels like grief wants to swallow you whole."
And the scenes that play out over the course of the video are a far cry from the images of celebration and togetherness that normally define Mother's Day in popular culture. One mom mourns over a headstone; another looks at baby photos alone. It's impossible not to get choked up as yet another mom cries over an ultrasound image she clutches in her hand and another writes a letter addressed to "Baby" that includes the heartbreaking (but very true) line, "I'll always be your mom."
It's often difficult for people to address other's sorrow and loss, so afraid are we of dredging up devastating memories, of making the other person upset and ourselves uncomfortable. That's why occasions like the more subdued "International Bereaved Mother's Day," which was May 7 this year, are so important. Writing for HuffPo, Alexis Marie Chute shared the experience of losing her newborn son to a random genetic abnormality that caused tumors to grow in his body — and why the holiday helped her and is vital for others:
[Bereaved moms] can talk about their birth experiences, what their children who died looked like, the dreams they had wished for their families, and how they may be hurting. Women who lost a baby and do not have living children can be recognized for the mother’s that they are, even without their babies in their arms. The day is a celebration and a memorial.
As the Today video progresses, the women begin to find some solace in their connections with others. Another woman joins and embraces the one grieving at the cemetery; a group of women participate in a candlelight vigil. Of course, this doesn't mean that their pain has vanished, but it does communicate the message of the project: "Even though you might not feel like it, Mother’s Day belongs to you too," Behrndt says. "Today especially, we want you to know: You are seen. You matter. You are still their mom. You are never alone. From one mother to another, you are loved."
It's a reminder to the rest of us too. If you know a mom who is likely struggling this Mother's Day, reach out to her. Acknowledge her pain. Commend her love for the child she has lost, and let her know she deserves to be celebrated, too.