When Your Mother’s Day Isn’t “Happy”

 

I miscarried twice in 2008, and was fighting a less-than-graceful battle with depression when Mother’s Day rolled around in 2009. I loved seeing the happy, smiling babies of my friends and family – the pictures of their flowers and breakfast in bed were so sweet and celebrated the blessings God had given them. But I found it difficult to read status updates bemoaning the fact that someone’s child crawled in bed with them at 4 a.m., or that their husband’s gift was a disappointment, or that they still couldn’t go to the bathroom alone, ON MOTHER’S DAY OF ALL DAYS.

I get it; motherhood is hard. It requires self-sacrifice. It turns your life upside-down and maybe even changes everything you thought you knew about yourself.  Motherhood deserves to be celebrated! But…

Some of us know what really sucks on Mother’s Day.

Wanting to snuggle in your bed with a baby that is in God’s arms instead of yours. Feeling like you failed your husband because your body rejected his child and knowing that you’ll be empty-handed on Father’s Day as well. Remembering that the last time you were in a bathroom with your child, you sat there alone and in shock, working up the courage to flush its tiny body down the toilet. Trying to wrap your mind around what it means to experience a birth and death simultaneously, without the celebration of life in between.

This is for those of you who are grieving while Mother’s Day draws near.

Your suffering is real. Your pain is valid. And you’re not alone.

A childless mother; a motherless child. Maybe you’ve fought the good IVF fight and just can’t do it anymore…or maybe you’ll never give up. Maybe you’re waiting for an emotional and risky adoption to get the green light. Maybe you’re in foster care or a group home. Maybe the mother you adored has passed on, and you miss her every moment of every day…or maybe she is alive and has made a lot of selfish mistakes. Maybe you never wanted to be a mom at all and had to make some difficult choices when you saw those two pink lines. Are you a single dad mourning a wife who was taken too soon…or chose to leave? Or a single mom who feels like 110% of her heart and soul just isn’t enough? Did you have to do the unimaginable and bury a child this year? Are you watching your mother or grandmother fade before your eyes? Is cancer or dementia slowly taking her from you piece by piece?

It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to be angry. Your pain is real.

  • It’s real even if you are the only one who knows why you mourn.
  • It’s real even if others think it’s not.
  • It’s real even if 10 years, 20 years, or 30 years have passed.
  • It’s real even if it has only been one day.

I won’t tell you that “it’s for the best” or that your loved ones are “in a better place”. I won’t tell you that it’s easier to have lost them sooner than later – or later than sooner. I won’t tell you that it wasn’t a real person yet or that you should just be grateful for the children/friends/family members you do have. I won’t tell you that you should be over it by now, and I won’t tell you not to cry. I hope you know that when people say these things to you, their intention isn’t to sting you with their words. They don’t know what to say, and it’s so easy to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. And the people who don’t say anything? They’re afraid of saying the wrong thing, too.

Remember that when you are needing grace from those around you that you’ll likely be required to extend grace yourself. Remember that the person you are missing was loved by other people as well; they were someone else’s mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, or child. As valid as your pain may be, you don’t have a monopoly on grief.

This is a mistake I regret making.

I wish I could go back in time and care more about how my husband felt and how excruciating it must have been for my mom to watch her own child crumble, helpless to stop it. It may not have changed the amount of pain I experienced, but it could have eased some of their suffering. 

That’s why I’m writing to you today. This is me coming back in time from a future that has more sunshine and smiles. A future with healing and love; with kids that crawl in my bed at 4 a.m. and never let me go to the bathroom alone. A future where I still have moments that feel like a punch in the stomach, but where I can go months without thinking about That Thing that once consumed me entirely. When you need help, ask for it. When you need grace, ask for it – and give it. And when you speak, choose your words wisely so you don’t damage relationships you will need in the future – when the clouds begin to part and the sun peeks through, you’ll want people to share that with you, too.

This Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of you. I’m praying for you. And so are a LOT of other women who know exactly how it feels to love, lose, and pick up the pieces.

Your pain is real to us.

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4 Responses to When Your Mother’s Day Isn’t “Happy”

  1. Kim May 5, 2015 at 6:49 am #

    Erin, that was beautifully written and hits home for so many. Thank you!

  2. Erin Bartel May 6, 2015 at 8:39 am #

    Thanks, Kim!

  3. Allison May 6, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    Please do not forget those of us that are single and had always hoped to be married with a family of our own. It’s not just married women that struggle through Mother’s Day.

    • Erin Bartel May 6, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

      Allison, I’m so sorry! I tried to list as many scenarios as I could think of, but you are right. There are many who struggle on Mother’s Day for a variety of reasons. You are on our hearts, as well!

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