The following article originally appeared on Christian Parenting last year.
Dear motherless mother, I see you.
It’s that time of year: the commercials, the flowers, the signs in every store you walk into—it’s Mother’s Day. This is the day each year that I know simultaneously you dread and you look forward to.
You look forward to (hopefully) being celebrated by your own children, but there’s this dreaded hole. It’s a pain and a sting you just can’t shake. Whether this is the first, the second, or the thirty-second Mother’s Day without your own mom—it hurts.
Maybe you are motherless because of death or maybe it’s because of a broken or fractured relationship. Regardless, the pain is very real.
Grief and coping
For the first few years after my own mother’s death, I hated Mother’s Day with the passion of a thousand suns. I counted down the days until Mother’s Day and then I would pretend as though the day didn’t exist.
I loathed the commercials, the displays in stores, and the constant barrage of reminders that I was without a mother to celebrate. Maybe to some it might seem silly or irrational—but hey, grief is weird like that, isn’t it?
I’d just fall into this funk as the day got closer and closer, and I couldn’t snap out of it until it was all said and done. Then it was just a matter of time till another painful reminder smacked me in the face.
In my day-to-day comings and goings, I’d be okay. Of course, daily, I’d think of her, and I’d smile. The day-to-day was easy-ish.
But there was something about Mother’s Day that just hurt. It wasn’t joyous for me. Sure, the years would go by, and I would learn how to better cope, but it didn’t necessarily get easier.
The depths of the Father’s love
And then one day, I had my own children. From the moment my first daughter was born, I understood the meaning of a mother’s love. I looked at this little human—she was so tiny, yet I felt so completely overwhelmed with love.
I felt this all-consuming wave of emotion come over me, and I knew that from that moment, I would do whatever I could to love, nurture, protect, and raise this sweet baby. I saw my heart physically outside of my chest.
And for the first time, I understood what my own mother must have felt like when I was born. I also began to slowly realize the depths of the Father’s love for me.
If I love my own child this much, and if I love my mother this much—how much does my Father in heaven love me?
He loved me so much that he sent his Son to die—for me.
I couldn’t, and still can’t, even begin to wrap my head around it.
Realizing past regrets
As I entered into motherhood and began to balance all these emotions, I admittedly felt this sense of regret. I know regret isn’t something we are supposed to admit to, but it was there.
I regretted all the times I mouthed off to my mom. I regretted not asking her more questions, not spending more time with her, or the times when I thought my mom was “so not cool” because I was a teenager and totally selfish.
I regretted not telling her I loved her more. (Of course I told her I loved her, but I should have said it more.) I regretted not asking her about her pregnancy with me—what she ate, what she didn’t, what she felt.
I regretted not asking her more about the early years with me as a baby, then a toddler, a young kid, and a teen. I regretted never apologizing to my mom for ever being the age of three (if you know, you know) or having a blowout diaper in a store while her cart was full of groceries or keeping her up all hours of the night or being indecisive or having her make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich only to decide I no longer wanted that but I wanted turkey instead or wanting the pink bowl instead of the blue bowl.
I regretted not asking her about the hard, the beautiful, and the wonderful.
Missing my mom
For eighteen-and-a-half years, I’ve missed my mother every day.
Becoming a mother just made me miss her more but in a completely different, new, and almost uncomfortable way. It’s something that’s hard to articulate, but it’s so very real. There are days that I just wish I could pick up the phone and call my mom to vent, to cry, or to tell her a story about the cute thing my kids just did, or get her advice, or just hear her voice.
There are times where no matter what book I read or friend I speak with or show I watch will replace the wisdom and comfort a mother brings. I think about the fact that I will never get to see my mom as a grandmother or a mother-in-law.
Oh, how I would love to see her and my husband sit on the couch and talk so she could know how awesome he is. The only pictures of my mom and my kids together are in my mind’s eye. And no matter what anyone says, it’s not the same.
For years, I carried this weight of regret and longing. One day, I took that regret and sorrow to the Lord and asked him, “God, what do you say about my regret? My pain? How can I release this burden over to you?”
And as he always does, he answered. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, Paul says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (NIV, emphasis mine)
There it was.
Godly sorrow . . . leaves no regret. Godly sorrow . . . leads to repentance.
I’d been carrying around all these pieces of regret, and I’d never taken the time to ask God for forgiveness for those mistakes I’d made.
Here’s the thing: God was just waiting on me to realize it. He’d already forgiven me of all the things I’d done and all the mistakes I’d made and all the things I’d ever do. I just had to ask him for that forgiveness.
It’s not that I’ll never feel sorrow or grief—grief isn’t something just to be pushed away and never dealt with. God grieves with me. He knows my heart and my pain.
I just have to bring it to him. I just have to stop trying to deal with it alone.
God sees you
I love my kids. So much. I love being their mom. And Mother’s Day means so much more to me now.
In fact, dare I say I like this holiday now because being a mom is the best and hardest and most rewarding and most challenging and most exhilarating and most exhausting job in the world.
And I think there should be a day that honors moms and all that moms do.
So, sweet sister, on that Sunday, when it’s Mother’s Day, I will go to church, maybe get brunch, and hopefully grab a nap. I’ll open a present made by my kids that’s probably a necklace made of dry pasta or a paper plate with crayon scribbled on it and it will be adorable and sentimental and all those things.
But I will also miss my mom that day. I will think about her and wish I were spending the day with her, too. It’s this weird feeling that I can’t quite articulate. This feeling of being happy and sad, joyful and remorseful, filled with hope and filled with regret.
A cavalcade of all of the feelings that no one can quite prepare you for. And that day, I’ll take that pain and those feelings to the Lord, and I know he will be with me in that pain.
He hears my cries, and he hears my sorrow. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
The motherless mother club. It’s not a club I ever thought I’d be a part of, or want to be a part of, and it’s certainly not a club that I wish to recruit new members to. But the other members of this terrible club know all too well what I’m talking about.
So, to my friend, my fellow motherless mother on this Mother’s Day—I see you, but more importantly, God sees you. He knows your heart, and he is with you.