When Mother's Day is Difficult
Soon we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day once again. For many families, it’s a time of celebration, appreciation, and joy. But for others, it’s one of the most difficult days of the year. This is especially true for women facing infertility or those who have recently experienced the loss of a mother, daughter, or other loved one.
I know what it’s like for Mother’s Day to be difficult. My husband and I struggled with infertility for almost a decade and experienced loss along the way. While we learned to live in hope and God eventually gave us a daughter (we adopted her when she was twenty-one years old!), we still remember the hurt and how holidays could bring it to the surface.
I also know what it’s like for Mother’s Day to be difficult because of experiences from working as a writer for DaySpring. Each year we would receive several letters from people thanking us for our Difficult Mother’s Day cards. One woman who wrote to express her appreciation said, “I spent seven very painful Mother’s Days longing for motherhood while dealing with infertility and the losses of eight children through miscarriage and failed adoptions. I’ve also seen my own mother’s grief and struggle through Mother’s Day after the death of her mother. And I have many friends in less-than-ideal situations either with prodigal children, abusive/estranged mother or children, loss of a child, and more.”
And finally, I know because of my training as a licensed counselor who has had the sacred honor of grieving alongside many women. I’ve learned that experiencing sadness on special occasions is a normal part of loss and longing. These days often serve as reminders of what we have let go or do not yet have.
So as Mother’s Day comes this year, I’d like to share a few thoughts from my heart to yours.
Embrace Your Emotions
First, if Mother’s Day is difficult for you then give yourself permission to grieve. When holidays come, we often put expectations on ourselves to feel a certain way. We may think, “This is a special occasion. I have to put on a happy face and make the best of it.” But it’s okay to feel sad and even cry.
It’s also helpful to realize that emotions are not good or bad. They are just messengers that tell us about what’s going on in our lives. Sadness tells us, “You’ve lost something or someone important to you.” It’s not a sin to feel sad. Jesus often experienced sadness and the Bible says he was “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” Isaiah 53:3 NIV
Many other godly people in the Bible experienced sadness and grief. In Psalm 13 King David pours out his heart to the Lord and asks, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” He does end by saying, “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” Does that mean we need to go from feeling broken to blessed in just a few lines? No, absolutely not. But it does show us something important about emotions. They are meant as stops along life’s journey rather than destinations. If you continually feel sad over a lengthy period of time or it seems as if there is no hope at all, then consider getting help from a professional.
Sometimes we need to be alone to experience our emotions, but usually it is wise to seek support. From the very beginning of creation, God said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. This is especially true when we are grieving. Jesus modeled this when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He brought several of His disciples with Him and said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Matthew 26:38 NIV
Support groups can be a great source of comfort. It helps to talk with others who know what you’re going through. You can learn from those who are further down the road than you are and offer help to those just beginning their journey. Support groups can be formally organized or they can be more casual, such as a group of women going through infertility meeting for a monthly lunch.
Of course, our strongest supporter will always be God. This may not feel as if it is true, especially after or during a time of loss in our lives. Right now you may be angry at God, disappointed in him, or feel as if you don’t have any faith left at all. That’s normal and many people in the Bible experienced the same thing. God understands that you are hurt. It’s okay to bring all of those feelings to him.
Normal grief and mourning can turn into serious depression. One of the symptoms of depression is withdrawing and isolating ourselves from others. If you find you are cutting off relationships, have no desire to be with other people, and are spending much more time alone than usual, it may be a sign that you need help to deal with your depression.
Do Something Special
The next thing you can do if Mother’s Day is difficult is to take some action. While doing something special when you are sad may feel a bit overwhelming, it is important because it helps us face our grief directly. Many people think that it’s better to avoid or bury their grief. But the opposite is actually true. Healing only comes when we acknowledge and embrace our losses.
The kind of action you take depends on your personality and the nature of your loss. For example, if you lost your mother then you might write her a letter. If you lost an unborn child, you might donate to a crisis pregnancy center in his or her honor. You and your spouse might look at photos of the sister you lost to breast cancer or visit a place where you used to go together. You may think, “But that will make me sad!” That’s okay. Experiencing grief is part of healing.
Hold Onto Hope
Finally, if Mother’s Day is difficult for you this year then hold onto hope. The Lord brought this phrase to my heart many times during the years I struggled with infertility.
I remember at one point in my journey it seemed as if I couldn’t take another step. In addition to infertility, I was facing several other losses. In my mind, I saw myself in a dark cave sitting with my head on my knees in despair. But then I sensed the Lord gently and lovingly speaking to my heart, “You’re in this cave but you have a choice. You can sit in despair or you can diamond-mine your difficulties.” I decided that if I was going to be stuck in this cave, I was not leaving empty-handed. I was taking every diamond I could find!
God sees each one of us. He knows how many hairs are on our heads and how many cares our in our hearts. Whatever you’re going through this Mother’s Day, you’re not facing it alone. As King David, a man who experienced many losses in his life, expressed in Psalm 34:18 NIV, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” May God surround you with love, fill you with hope, and give you strength for each moment— especially this Mother’s Day.
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