A discussion with Angela Miller about her book, You Are The Mother of All Mothers: A Message of Hope for the Grieving Heart
Angela Miller is a Solo Mom, an author, and an advocate for women who are surviving child loss. Her son died suddenly when he was a toddler. Since then, Miller has written and spoken about the death of her son, and has facilitated groups on loss for mothers in grief. Her book, You Are the Mother of All Mothers: A Message of Hope for the Grieving Heart, is a letter to mothers coping with child loss and grief while trying to find complex peace in the present. An article Miller wrote, which advises about things to avoid saying to parents in grief, has become a perennial go-to in the baby- and child-loss community.
Q: What do people not understand about Solo Moms and child loss/bereavement?
A: That is a good question. People need to understand that it is hard to grieve without the presence of the other parent. It is hard not to have someone with whom to say, “Remember when it was his first birthday?” It is hard not have the other parent who really knew and loved your child in the way you did. Being a Solo Mom is isolating on a whole other level. And opportunities to feel less alone are hard to create.
Q: How can those around her best offer support to the bereaved Solo Mom?
A: Say, “I am right here now to listen. I am here to walk through this with you. I am not going anywhere.”
Q: People in loss tend to struggle with marking anniversaries—birthdays, due dates, death dates. What should people know about supporting Solo Moms around such occasions?
A: It is so helpful for people to remember birthdays and death dates every year. People forget. They go back to their own lives. I have one friend—every year she sends a card. She is the only person who remembers every year. It means so much. Most people forget when time passes. If you are the person who remembers, that matters so much.
In a sense, you live on two tracks—the here and now, and then the should-have-been.
But it is more than just birthdays. It is helpful to keep in mind all the milestones. Especially for Solo Moms—when you are alone all the time, all these milestones are so painful, for example, the first day of kindergarten. The back-to-school season every year is such a punch in the gut. Every time.
Q: If you were someone else and you were taking care of you, how would you do it? What would you suggest?
A: You have to be so gentle with yourself. Sometimes you have to remove all expectations. I am a completely different person from who I was before my son died. Grief is always hitting me at random times.
It is important to accept the reality of what is.
It is important to understand that trauma changes your brain.
Take really good care of yourself. Take up yoga and meditation and things that are calming.
That can help to get you out of the trenches of grief.
I wrote an essay, which later became a book, based on a time when I was really struggling and grief was really hitting me hard. I thought to myself, “What is it going to take to make me believe it is not my fault? What letter would I like to receive?” Originally, it was a letter to myself.
In the end, try not to be afraid to be happy. Allow yourself the freedom to be happy. Let yourself take joy in the small things and allow yourself to build a new life that makes you happy again.
Tara Shafer is the cofounder of Reconceiving Loss, an online resource center for families coping with pregnancy and infant loss. She is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and BabyCenter. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. You can follow her on Twitter at @reconceivinglos.
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