May 9, 1989 was the day my birth mother died, so believe me, I know – sometimes Mother’s Day is the WORST. When everyone else is celebrating, but your heart is full of ache, how do you handle it?
Every year, hundreds of thousands of women die from cancer, heart disease, suicide, car accidents, childbirth complications, stroke…Everywhere you turn, someone is in mourning the loss of his or her mother. And yet, Mother’s Day comes and goes; a painful reminder of their loss.
My own experience with Mother’s Day has varied through the years, and that got me thinking. I know I’m not the only one who has struggled on this particular date, and there are a lot of people who have freshly lost their mothers.
There are also countless women who are mourning infertility or lost children. Whether you’ve lost your mother or you desperately want to be a mother, Mother’s Day can be heart-wrenching.
It’s not just Mother’s Day, either, but Father’s Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, a loved one’s birthday or last day, the due date of a baby lost. It could be any day of the year for you.
So how do you deal?
You can mourn your loss or you can celebrate your blessings. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4).
For years, I mourned. Although God had given me a wonderful new mother figure, I didn’t know how to separate my loss from my gain. I’m not sure how Robin (Mom) dealt with countless less-than-celebratory Mother’s Days with me, but she gave me so much grace. She understood that my little girl heart was broken, and she let me cry.
It’s okay if you have to mourn through celebration.
It’s okay if you have to bow out.
Want to lay on the couch in sweatpants and avoid socializing? Call me. I’ll drop off some ice cream.
When you are walking through a time of mourning, you have to allow grace to wash over you, and you have to rest.
Have you ever read the account of Elijah in 1 Kings 18-19? Israel was experiencing a severe famine, and the leaders were following Baal, a pagan god. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and effectively facilitated a situation where God demonstrated His power and glory before the people.
After doing so, Elijah slayed the pagan prophets, and then he ran from Mt. Carmel to Jezreel, a distance near that of a modern marathon. 1 Kings 18:46 says, “The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.” Little detail, Ahab was riding on a chariot.
Read what happens next in 1 Kings 19:1-6…
“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.”
Now, I know that Elijah battling pagan prophets and leaders is not the same as losing your mother. However, his emotional and spiritual experience is a common thread throughout humanity.
So many times I have uttered the words, “I have had enough, Lord.”
Do you know this weariness?
I really think you should take note of how God ministered to Elijah in his state of complete physical and spiritual exhaustion.
Food and sleep. That’s a God-endorsed way of coping in a time of sorrow!
In this era, busyness is overvalued and resting and eating for strength is devalued. I’m not suggesting that we should become sluggards and eat all of our emotions, but there is a time to stop, rest, and eat to strengthen your resolve.
I think it is important to remember the people around you who are celebrating and lift them up. However, just as my mom gave me grace for my brokenness, the good ones around you will understand when your spirited is not elated.
If you need to remember your loved one by visiting a grave, watching home videos, or snuggling up with their ratty old sweatshirt, do that. If you need to weep and talk it out, do that. As long as what you do to cope doesn’t harm you or someone else physically or emotionally (i.e. drugs, alcohol, violence, hateful words, etc.), don’t worry that what you’re doing doesn’t match the experiences of other people. Just because you aren’t celebrating on a particular date doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you.
There is a time to cry.
There is also a time to laugh.
For the past few years, I’ve been able to genuinely celebrate on Mother’s Day. I’ve done a lot of healing in the past decade, through counseling, friendships, long talks with my family, artwork, writing, becoming a mother.
It took me a long time before I understood I didn’t have to feel guilty if I chose to celebrate instead of mourn.
You don’t dishonor your lost loved one if you choose happiness. I know my mom would not want her death to steal my joy forever.
As I said before, God brought a wonderful woman into my life, and I have called her “Mom” for over twenty years.
Celebrating her motherhood is a joyous occasion, and I can do that wholeheartedly tomorrow. If my birth mother can see me, I’m sure she is thankful for this woman that God chose to raise up her girl.
I guess what I want to tell you is that it’s okay to celebrate the other people in your life that are in the here and now. Whether you’ve lost your mother, whether she chose not to be in your life or you never knew her, celebration is still beautiful if that is what you choose.
There are mothers all around you, and I’d be the first one to give you permission to celebrate those women. In fact, if I could take back some of the Mother’s Days of years gone by, I’d spend more time celebrating my mom and the sisters in Christ who have stepped in to minister to my heart.
You will not dishonor your loved one’s memory if you choose laughter over weeping.
Even if you are still suffering a recent loss, I believe it’s okay to lay those feelings aside for a day or two if you want. You don’t have to go to battle everyday. Taking a day to refresh and enjoy the blessings in your life is not only wonderful, but necessary.