The Mother’s Day Divide

Self-pity loomed over me for weeks leading up to Mother's Day 2013. Dad had yet to change their voicemail, so my Mom's voice still welcomed callers to leave a message so she could get back to them as soon as possible. I would call when he wasn't home just to hear her voice but never leaving a message because a return call could never come.

It was my first Mother's Day since my Mom died, 2nd Mother's Day since our son Elliot died, and, though all the adoption paperwork was signed for our youngest son, changes in law meant he must remain with his foster family a bit longer (in fact, 2 more years!). And, as always, I was remembering my daughter that will never celebrate Mother's Day with us because of my choice for abortion. Mother's Day 2013, I had no Mom and only 1 of my 4 kids were within my grasp.

Though my relationship with my Mom was less than perfect, I still longed for her comfort as I grieved our son, and I wanted her to walk alongside us in our adoption journey. She was a teacher's assistance for many years, specifically serving children in challenging circumstances - why couldn't she be here to share her wisdom and experience with us as we prepared to parent a child that fit that very description? I "should" all over myself... "You should be grateful for an amazing mother-in-law and all the other women who invest so deeply into your life." "You should be grateful for the son you do have by your side." Yep, none of this was helpful.

Mother's Day is a day worth celebrating, but, for some, it is a reminder of suffering rather than rejoicing. Is it possible to celebrate when there is such grief? Is it possible to suffer yet also be grateful? Yes and yes!

Emotions are complicated.

  • Incredible memories of our mom or child can make our "now" painful if they are no longer with us.
  • A painful past can make it difficult to appreciate the amazing parts of today.
  • Today's difficult circumstances may incline us to worry and steal our joy for tomorrow.

All this intermingling of joy and grief - how can we reconcile it, embrace it, and get the most out of this "abundant life" Jesus came to give us?

In order to awaken our hearts to the joy of our past, present and future, let's look at 3 promises/truths that give us permission to grieve while simultaneously providing joy and comfort - and that IS something we can celebrate!

A Promise For Our Past

“Do you think this is a surprise to Me? I have always known this was going to happen, so I’ve been preparing you for a long time.” Such profound words whispered to me by God as I questioned how we would survive the death of our son.

NOTHING completely prepares a parent for the loss of a child, but God's words spurred me to discover ways in which He had prepared us. I was blown away as I looked back at the work He had been doing in my life and how it applied to my today; for example, a few years prior to my pregnancy, I felt an urging to honor the body God had given me by becoming healthier, and I did just that! During my pregnancy with Elliot, I was healthier than I’d been in years. In preparation for Elliot’s death, God gave me the gift of a clear conscience in how I treated my body and, therefore, our child during pregnancy - "What if I had been healthier?" never loomed through my mind.

  • Ask God to reveal how He was working in the past to prepare you for today.


A Promise For Our Present

In Romans 8 there's a list of all these horrible things that could happen and are, in some ways, bound to happen - calamity, persecution, famine/hunger, destitution, danger, death, but then in verse 37 the author gives this consolation:

"But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us." Romans 8:37

"Overwhelmingly conquer" is not future tense, as in, "well, when we finally get to heaven it will be conquered." It's our current state - we are doing it right now. He promised us not just survival as we are going through this, He promises that we are overwhelmingly conquering. In Him, we have amazing strength AND ongoing victory.

  • Ask God to give you a glimpse of the strength He has instilled in you that makes you a conquering warrior.


A Promise For Our Future

1 Peter 5:10 “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

Simply put - He is not finished with us yet. He has a plan to continue working in us and establishing us. Circumstances of the past or of today, when laid at His feet, literally gives us super powers - the ability to love, empathize, and see things that those without this type of suffering simply cannot see. If you're in the thick of grief and suffering, don't feel you have to force yourself into superhero action - it is actually God working within you that will bring these things about, but I hope your heart is stirred with anticipation of such things so that you can put them into action when the time comes.

The glory God has planned for our lives is not "in spite of" our difficult circumstances, it is "in the midst of." Embracing suffering while also reveling in God's goodness seems paradoxical, but it is the greatest story ever. The hard part for me is that God's definition of "a little while" is usually very different than mine!

  • Ask God to bring you comfort and endurance as you continue to "suffer for a little while" and reassure you of His plans to perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.


When Mother's Day arrives this Sunday, just let it be what it needs to be for you. By remembering God's love and faithfulness in the midst of our past, present, and future, today you have freedom to grieve well while also embracing unexpected joys and comforts. Knowing God is doing a good work within you (even if it feels like brokenness right now) is as worthy of celebration as is Mother's Day.

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6 thoughts on “The Mother’s Day Divide”

  1. words well put from a wise mother , I miss mine still but for the reasons that haunt me today, did she really love me ? why weren’t we the most important people to her , am I being selfish? unanswered questions

    1. It is so difficult to be left with these types of unanswered questions, and I know many carry this same hurt (I too have unanswered questions, many of which I think I’ve made up answers to suffice myself). Thank you, Jim, for sharing this. Love you, friend.

  2. Thanks Halee. It’s been over 23 years that my Mother’s been gone and I still miss her everyday. Her words of wisdom and comfort still come to mind when needed. She was a great mom and taught me so many things which I will always be grateful for. This was a great article and much needed today.

    1. A phrase I adopted early in my grief was, “I only hurt so much because I had the opportunity to love so much.” So in some strange way it feel like grief is a small price we pay for the opportunity for deep relationships. Grateful for the relationship you had with your mother, and sorry that you are missing her.

  3. Halee, thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I am missing my mom so much right now, she was my Cheerleader, therapist, sounding board, ever constant Godly example. I’m so thankful she was there for me in so many ways but none as importantly as when she put her arms around me after I explained I was pregnant at 20 with no prospect of a father in sight. She was my best friend, constantly praying over me and loving me through the pain. It was the worst time and it was the best time. Mom’s aren’t perfect but God gave me the perfect mom for me. Love you Halee.

    1. That is all so hard and beautiful wrapped into one. Praising God for the sweet gift He gave you for a mom, and also grieving with you as you wrestle with the loss. You are loved and cherished, Denise. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your memories with me.

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