A mother’s heart feels the joy of nurturing a young life, seeing developmental milestones reached, and celebrating special occasions. But the compassionate heart that experiences joy may also feel intense sadness when she or someone close to her faces the painful experiences of motherhood. Just as the fire that warms can also be the fire that burns, being a mom can sometimes be rewarding and gut-wrenching at the same time.
Depending on your current circumstances, this Mother’s Day may be one that you anticipate with fear, sorrow, or dread.
If this describes you, you’re not alone.
I think it’s fair to say that most mothers will have some Mother’s Days that are difficult, maybe even depressing. While each situation is unique, Mother’s Day struggles tend to fall into one of four categories: A painful childhood, illness or death, disconnection from children, and other significant losses.
Mother’s Day After a Painful Childhood
For some, Mother’s Day has always been difficult. It is a reminder of the mother who was gone for various reasons, or was physically there but was abusive or neglectful.
For much of Allyson’s adult life, she experienced a lingering sadness, fueled by a longing for the mother that she never had. Her mother was rarely around and didn’t provide a loving or safe home environment. The shared celebrations Allyson’s friends have with their moms on Mother’s Day used to cause Allyson to relive deep wounds and experience feelings of loss. She was left wondering what she might have done to make her mother neglect and reject her.
The answer, of course, is nothing. A child is never responsible for a mother’s actions, good or bad. Thankfully, Allyson sought counseling. Allyson has worked hard to accept the truth of her childhood and begun to pursue fulfillment in her relationship with God and her new family. Counseling may be helpful for you, as well.
Coping With Illness or Death
Mother’s Day may also remind some moms of the misery they’ve experienced while coping with a child’s illness or death. This may have exposed unmet expectations for justice and fairness in life. Or, it shattered the illusion that a mom can fix everything.
To make things worse, the grief many moms feel is exacerbated by the nagging feeling that they are partially responsible for their child’s suffering. Unfortunately, sometimes things just happen. Children are not supposed to face serious illnesses or die before their parents. But they do, and when that occurs, moms ask the “why” questions. God’s silence can sometimes feel deafening.
Or maybe the illness or death of a mother, grandmother, sister, or spouse who shared in motherhood joys comes to mind. Our best memories are made from the impressions that our favorite people leave on our lives. Longing to see the faces and hear the voices of departed loved ones can bring on feelings of loss and hopelessness.
The death of a loved one is almost always hard to bear, whether expected or unexpected, and each loss is significant. A child’s death by suicide, however, may be one of the most devastating losses.
Focus on the Family contributor, Beth Saadati, lived through this when her daughter took her life at the age of 14. To add to this devastation, Beth has recently lost her mother during the coronavirus crisis. So, this Mother’s Day is especially difficult. Remarkably, despite these losses, Beth has found a hope that sustains her as she continues to miss her daughter and mother. She shares more about how she found hope in this video.
In other cases, Mother’s Day can be difficult for mothers of children who have distanced themselves from their parents for various reasons. Are you a mom who has made repeated efforts to reach out to an estranged child and resolve conflicts? Perhaps you have lost custody or connection? Whatever the case, because the mother-child relationship is strained or currently nonexistent, the lack of connection may leave you feeling inadequate.
If you’re feeling disconnected from a child for any reason, I encourage you to be proactive. Talk with a friend, pastor, or family member to explore some ideas for establishing contact, reconnecting, and reconciling if it is possible. Or consider other ways to bless others in need of relationship. A Christian licensed mental health professional can offer suggestions that may help.
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Other Significant Losses
Finally, you may want to celebrate Mother’s Day, but can’t. Despite a strong desire to have children, the agony of infertility or a miscarriage may be part of your experience. When other mothers complain about the challenges of raising children, you long for the opportunity to face those challenges. Pain is found in the emptiness you feel. There are some excellent programs that offer help.
Or is it a previous abortion that may be causing grief? While there are no simple answers to alleviate post-abortion pain, God’s grace and forgiveness is free and available to all who seek Him. A pregnancy center can help process the impact of a past abortion.
Hope and Healing
Perhaps it has been a difficult year as a mom. It may even feel as if God is not there. One crisis has led to another and prayers have seemingly gone unanswered. All the while, it seems as if other moms have had blessings upon blessings. I can empathize with the contradiction of feeling genuinely happy for another mother while feeling personally hopeless.
During one particularly difficult year when my daughter was gravely ill and I lost my uncle, aunt, and mother unexpectedly, I felt far from God. But one morning, a thought came to my mind as I was praying. I wondered, could it be that God’s silence wasn’t evidence of His absence? Maybe it was an expression of His desire to listen as I poured out my heart to Him. So that’s what I did. I talked and cried and vented to the Lord every day for well over a year.
I found hope and healing as I revealed my honest and sincere grief to God. My longing for answers and comfort fostered in me a deeper dependence on God. There’s no formula to get through the struggles of this life. Each mom has to find her own way. But it is important to know that God desires an intimate, honest relationship with all of His children in both the good times, and the difficult ones.
Are You Hurting This Mother’s Day?
If you’re a mother who is anticipating Mother’s Day as a day of celebration, be aware of other moms around you who may be struggling to find joy. Reach out to them, pray with them, comfort them. Resist the urge to offer Bible verses or quick fix responses. Hurting moms often hear simple answers to complex problems as others discounting the real pain they feel. The best you can do is listen and be willing to sit with a struggling mom. Establish an authentic relationship with her and be present to hear her confusion and pain. Remember that Galatians 6:2 says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Are you secretly counting the days, waiting for Mother’s Day to pass this year? If this Mother’s Day brings you hurt rather than joy, I encourage you to be honest with trusted family members and friends. Let them know you’re struggling and be willing to ask for help. You’ll probably find that your honesty will encourage others in your life to open up and share their hurts with you. Together, you can find hope and healing in Jesus that can sustain you through each day..
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