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Friday, May 6, 2016

When Mother's Day is Painful, Making Meaning

For the mother who has lost a child, the woman who has never had children (but wishes she had), for the child who has lost a mother, for the family who is slowly losing a mother to a debilitating chronic illness, for the mother estranged from her child, for the child estranged from his mother, Mother's Day can be painful. For many Mother's Day is a painful reminder of what has never been or of what has been lost.

Mother's Day is coming up this Sunday. For me this day has always been a joyful celebration of the woman who has had more influence and impact on my life than any other. As I watch my mother succumb to Alzheimer's Disease (AD), Mother's Day becomes bittersweet. A sweet opportunity to celebrate my love for her and her influence in my life, as well as bitter as we face the daily reality of her slow but continued decline. Additionally, this day, this year is the anniversary of the day my father stepped into heaven. Painful, yet not hopeless.

For many Mother's Day is a painful reminder of what has never been or of what has been lost. It becomes a day to get lost in work, to medicate the pain in one way or another, to ignore it, or to get through the day the best one can and breath a sigh of relief until it comes again next year. Is there a better way? Is there a way to make meaning out of the pain?

God gave us a great gift when He gave us the ability to choose how we would cope with the circumstances we face. Thankfully we can chose to take the pain we feel, even the overwhelming pain, and take steps to make meaning out of it. In the beginning when the pain is raw and fresh, the steps may be small and deeply personal. As the pain begins to recede and we begin to adjust to the loss, we may be able to do more and more to make meaning from our pain. 

Here are a few ideas to cope with a painful day in a positive way.
  • Write a letter. Write a letter to the mother or child that is gone, even to the child that you wish had been. Tell them what you're doing, your thoughts about them, what you wish they were here to enjoy. This letter can be kept in a special place for cherishing, attached to a balloon and sent away, or destroyed if it is deeply personal. 
  • Give to a motherless child. Look around for a child (young or old) who may be having a difficult time on this day. How can you encourage him or her? How can you ease their pain and make this day a positive memory for them?
  • Honor those who are childless with kindness and understanding. Childlessness whether through infertility, miscarriage, or singleness can be painful. Acknowledging the contribution these women make into the lives of others is a gift of hope and encouragement.
  • Take time to share memories of the lost mother or child. On this day we think of our mother who is gone or the child whose seat is now empty. They are in our thoughts, but sometimes they get caught there. It is good to not only think of them, but to talk of them, to share memories, to tell stories, to savor the person we still love and to introduce them to others. 
  • Give to a bereaved mother. Be sensitive to the woman who has lost her child(ren) either through death or estrangement. What act of kindness would comfort her on this day? What word of encouragement would refresh her heart and lift her mouth in a smile? 
I have suggested a mere handful of ideas. I'd love to hear your ideas.
What are other ways to make meaning when Mother's Day is painful?


  1. Thank you.
    Being 51 and still single, Mother's Day is very painful (especially at church when only physical children are counted).

    1. Yes, it is. I hope that this year either someone was able to bless you on this difficult day or that you were able to find a path through the pain to peace.