Mother's Day: Grief in the Joy, and Joy in the Grief.

It’s another holiday, and per the usual in the American society, nobody can agree whether to celebrate the holiday, judge it, or ignore it.

There are facebook monologues condemning the celebration of motherhood by accusing it of making motherhood the peak of femininity, excluding our women who do not get to experience the joys and struggles of motherhood for a variety of reasons. Then there are the claims that the holiday is insensitive to those who had abusive mothers, or to the mothers who have lost children, or the children who have lost their mothers, or the birthmothers who have bravely chosen to give their children a life full of love in another family.  Then there are those who simply accuse it of becoming a “Hallmark Holiday” that only feeds the belly of consumerism, (which FYI these same people scream about every dad gum holiday we Americans celebrate). 

And sadly we Christians are the worst at it because we assign the celebration or lack thereof a moral value. You’re either right or wrong. There’s no in between and it drives me nuts! I feel like every holiday that rolls around I’m walking on eggshells!

For the love, at some point we all need to learn how beautiful it is when we can find joy amidst our grief and learn to grieve amidst our joy. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. We can choose both.

And before you think I’m crazy, let me take you to the book of Romans chapter 12. Paul writes, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Then just a few verses later in chapter 12 he says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another.”

Mother’s Day is a holiday that displays both the happiest of joys and the most devastating grief. But we don’t have to pick a side. We don’t have throw the baby out with the bath water, and we don’t have to celebrate blissfully ignorant of those around us hurting. We can choose to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

So how do we do that on Mother’s Day, and all of the other holidays and celebrations that point out what is broken or lost?  Here are a few suggestions for both the joyful and the heartbroken:

For the Joyful:

  • Celebrate and be a good steward of the gift God has given you. For example on mother’s day, cherish the moms in your life. Notice I said, moms, not mom. This might mean that you write a letter or card or give gifts to the mom who raised you, the spiritual moms who have mentored you in the faith, and the moms or friends in your community who you see working hard to serve their families. Motherhood is far more than just familial. Look around you and celebrate God’s grace through the mothers in your life.
  • If you are the one being celebrated, celebrate humbly. Paul says right after “Live in harmony with one another” to “not be haughty… Never be wise in your own sight.”  Don’t boast in what you have and what others do not. You can celebrate the heck out of a holiday without being haughty.  
  • On that same note. Know your audience. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than sitting in a group of people with someone who doesn’t know their audience. It’s a basic public speaking principle, but I think it’s a good life lesson as well. If you’re at dinner with a group of women and one of them has just had a miscarriage, don’t go on and on and on and on about how much you love to feel your baby kick and how great the last ultrasound went. I’m not saying don’t celebrate that baby or talk about him/her at all, what I am saying is be mindful of your words. Choose them graciously. Choose them to edify ALL who sit at the table. 
  • Learn that grieving alongside your brother or sister in the pain of this day or any day, does not have to diminish the joy the day brings you. Many nights I have sat on my couch with good friends and cried tears over what has been lost or never had. There is beauty in those who have positive experiences with mothers and motherhood, saying, we don’t know what road you’re walking or have walked, but we won’t let you walk it alone. It doesn’t mean you hide what road the Lord has given you to walk, but instead, you both walk the different paths together crying and laughing and weeping and rejoicing, looking up towards the One who has ordained both paths. Toes will be stepped on, but grace & honesty can cover a multitude of sins. And isn’t that true of all community?
  • Don’t judge others for ignoring something you celebrate. Just don’t. You don’t know the road they’ve walked and the journey the Lord has them on. And it’s not your place to judge. The end. 

For the Brokenhearted:

  • Do not run from your pain or try to hide from it. Find a safe place within your community and share your story and how Mother’s Day (or insert any other celebration) makes you feel. Grieving isn’t wrong. It’s not unhealthy. This world is broken and there is much to grieve. And friend, God is big enough to handle your grief. He’s not mad at you for it. He has not and will not abandon you. He is kind, and good, and strong, and He loves you. There is nothing you can say or do to change that.
  • When you’ve worked through the initial stages of grief, find a safe place to practice celebrating the good. This is hard, I know. That's why it takes practice. But that friend who has a child and never sleeps, write her a note of encouragement. Tell her she’s doing a great job at this whole motherhood thing. To the women in your life who have mothered you, write them a note, give them call, send them flowers. If you can’t muster the strength to do it to their face, start out with a card. Baby steps. It’s always a beautiful thing to see someone celebrate the joys and successes of others, but it is even more beautiful when the person celebrating is coming from a place of loss or grief. There are few things that display Christian community better than joy intermingled with grief, and grief intermingled with joy.
  • Don’t judge others for celebrating something you choose to ignore. Just don’t. Don’t call them petty. Don’t call them consumers. Don’t call them insensitive. If the day brings you too much pain and you can’t bring yourself to celebrate, peacefully abstain. Joyfully abstain. But judge not. And as you grow in grace and courage, share your story and your reason for abstaining. Your perspective is needed. We ALL are one body and we ALL have different stories and perspectives to bring to the table. 

Yes, I’m writing this in regards to Mother’s Day. But I really think it could apply to many of our celebrations. Weddings, Baby Showers, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day… All of these can have down sides: an empty seat at the table, a reminder of what was lost or never had, reminders of how broken this world truly is. But God gave us each other to be pictures of reconciliation and restoration in this broken world. We were made to walk this journey together, rejoicing and weeping along the way.

So today, on the day that brings many joy and many sorrow, let us love one another well. Let’s cry and laugh and hold each other close, because Motherhood is beautiful and hard and messy. And some of us feel the bumps and bruises it brings, and others will not. But may we all agree that hand in hand, we can get through and celebrate this holiday together, both weeping and rejoicing.

Much love & Happy Mother’s Day,

Posted on May 10, 2015 .