Mourning on Mother’s Day: Hope and Healing for Hearts that Hurt
With Mother’s Day approaching this weekend, I wanted to consider that Mother’s Day can be a rather painful day for some. Of course we should celebrate motherhood. I’m certainly not suggesting that Mother’s Day be thrown out with the bath water. Mothers work jolly hard and deserve all the flowers, chocolates, cards and breakfasts in bed. But on a day focussed on motherhood, it can be more of a commiseration for many. Perhaps we need to pause and reflect, and poignantly consider that this is a day tinged with sadness for some. A day of unspoken pain. Consider the words of a woman who lost her daughter when she was five days old and has battled secondary inftertility ever since.
‘Every commercial about Mother’s Day gifts, every Facebook post reminding people Mother’s Day is upcoming and every Mother’s Day display at the store are like a new knife blade running over the scar tissue on my heart.’
For some women it is Mother’s Day that is the most difficult day of the year. All around me are people for whom this is the case. Not everyone is a Mum. And not everyone is in a relationship or married. There are many women who have not met a partner, and are therefore childless by circumstance. There are those who have experienced the agony and heartache of miscarriage, stillbirth, or the loss of an infant or child. And there are those who are mum’s in waiting. They may have experienced the private pain of infertility, which in a child centred world may be one of the most painful places in society. For mum’s in waiting, many events and occasions may be difficult, but Mother’s Day would have to be one of the hardest. I have so many dear friends in these categories. And there are numerous examples in the Bible of women who journeyed a long and difficult road in the path to becoming a mother. Rachel, Sarah, Hannah. Hannah is perhaps the most notable woman in the Bible who battled with infertility, and we see the depth of her pain, spiritually, emotionally and physically. And there were many others who walked a similar road.
Many of us will be aware of the instruction in the Bible to ‘weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice’ (Romans 12). But how does one weep with weeping women when one is blessed with a healthy bouncing baby on one’s hip? Consider too that rejoicing with those that rejoice is probably harder in many instances. For the woman who hasn’t been able to conceive when all around her are friends and colleagues announcing their pregnancies and little babies being born. The woman who has lost a child, through miscarriage or later on. Churches can also be hard places sometimes for such people. Possibly so because Christian churches are very family focussed. Much attention is focussed on building strong marriages and families, which is important. But do churches in particular acknowledge the pain of Mother’s Day for some? God is always particularly concerned about those left out of standard family life – the orphans, the widows and abandoned.
There seems to be alot of pressure in Christian culture to have children. And children are indeed a blessing. But is the downside of this an alienation of people who are unable to have children, or perhaps don’t want to have children? We reinforce the idea that one should want to have children. There may be stigmas on people who don’t have children and people can feel significant amounts of pressure to have children. It seems to be socially acceptable to joke to one another ‘So, when are you going to have kids?’ But it’s not something that I ever ask people now. Couples who are struggling to have a family may feel experience feelings of guilt, stress, worthlessness and even depression. I have always thought that asking all mothers to stand up in a service on Mother’s Day is rather excluding. Perhaps all women should be affirmed on Mother’s Day. I have dear friends who don’t have biological children of their own, but they play a significant motherly role in the lives of my children.
Mother’s Day may also be a painful day for those whose mothers are no longer with them. The motherless daughters and sons, and those whose relationships with their mothers are strained. There are motherless daughters groups around the world that get together before Mother’s Day each year. I have many friends for whom Mother’s Day heightens feelings of loss and grief for their own mother.
Parenting comes with pain too. Motherhood can be a painful priviledge, and there are mothers whose children are grown and never call. Or perhaps one or more of their children have made difficult choices and have gone down a different path. Perhaps their children have gotten into drugs or alcohol, and maybe they feel the judgment of the community around them. When you raise a child there are no guarantees. ‘Raise up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6) is a Bible verse that is often over used and misquoted. We can pray for our children and do our best, but the reality is that at the end of the day, our children will make their own choices.
The parents of the girls who have been abducted in Nigeria have been on my heart this week. This situation is beyond words. And the parents in South Korea who lost their teenage children in the ferry disaster. There are numerous other tragic events. Grief is everywhere. Perhaps we need to be more aware and more sensitive to the pain in people around us. An acknowledgement is a good place to start.
And to those who are suffering or in a dark place this Mother’s Day, to the woman who grieves that her child bearing years are past, to the mum in waiting, the mum who has lost a child, the daughter or son who has lost a mother, and the mother whose worry for her grown child prevents her from sleeping at night. Know that Jesus suffers with you. God is close to the broken hearted and with those who grieve. Luke 7 tells the acount of a weeping mother who has lost her only son. Jesus felt compassion for her and miraculously raises her son from the dead. But even if Jesus doesn’t perform a miracle, with Jesus there is still hope. When there is pain in our soul, there is forgiveness, comfort, strength and peace. May He fill your arms and aching heart with His love. God invites us to come. He says ‘‘Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:28-29). God knows the tears you have shed. He keeps track of all your sorrows, recording each one. And He holds our tears in a bottle.