When Mother’s Day Is Painful

“Did you have a nice Mother’s Day?” I’ve heard that question often this week, and you probably have, too. But sometimes there isn’t an easy answer, especially if your Mother’s Day didn’t feel like a Hallmark holiday, because sometimes we’re in the middle of circumstances that are far from what we imagined. In the moments of recognition that “this isn’t what it’s supposed to be, we can feel isolated by our differences and devastated by our reality. This place where we envisioned joy and fulfillment can bring deep (and often unexpected) pain. Few women talk about this side of motherhood at Mother’s Day. When you scroll through social media around these types of holidays, it looks like everyone else has a picture-perfect family and Instagram-worthy celebration. When our world doesn’t match what we see, we can experience an additional layer of pain. And the hard part is that we can’t control any of it. But while we can’t change our circumstances, we can find healing and comfort through prayer.

Through my experiences, I’ve realized that far more women know the pain of Mother’s Day than we see on social media. When we are grieving or going through a difficult time, we keep it to ourselves because it stands in opposition to the societal implications of this day. There are many reasons for our pain: we’ve lost (or become separated) from our mother, we want (but do not have) a child, we’re experiencing relational strain (with a mother or child), our child has died, or maybe the path of mothering has left us with a heavy heart.

You’re Not Alone

If these scenarios apply, I want you to know you’re not alone. In our place of grief or identification of loss, there is One who knows our pain, and He carries it within his heart. God feels our pain. His arms of love enfold us because He is the God of all comfort. When we go through times of trouble, He walks with us along every path, each step of the way. I can tell you this because I’ve walked a journey of grief and know the deep pain of loss. My first daughter was born at 26 weeks of pregnancy and died 20 minutes after her birth. From the time I was a child, I had dreamed of becoming a mother, but I never envisioned my pregnancy ending in such a profound loss.

The death of a child is all-encompassing. It affects our present moment and every plan. While pregnant, we imagine the color of their hair and eyes. We wonder how tall they will be and if they will look more like their father or mother. But we don’t think about coming home from the hospital without them; we don’t imagine Mother’s Day as a grieving mother.

I remember the agony of that season. I couldn’t envision surviving the loss of my daughter. Mother’s Day came six months after her death, and I wanted to pretend it didn’t exist. On that Sunday, I stayed home from church. I couldn’t face the other mothers and how our church would honor them. It’s not that I was jealous; it’s just that grief is a journey, and I was still finding my way through.

Finding Your Way Through Grief

Grief is more than physical loss. Mother’s Day can inflict feelings of grief for many different reasons. And contrary to previous beliefs, we now know that there aren’t systematic stages of grief. Grief is not linear, and we navigate it best when we are gentle with ourselves. You’ll find more on giving yourself grace while grieving in my post: Understanding Grief & Giving Grace When It’s Not Linear.

Grief is inconvenient; sometimes, we see it coming, and other days, it sneaks up when we least expect it, but just as grief comes, so does God. I’ve found God in the lonely moments of my sorrow, and He’s carried me through each season. It was more difficult to see Him amid my grief when I lost my first daughter. It was the first time I’d ever gone through a personally profound loss. I had to learn to find Him. I wanted to find Him, but some days, it was hard to see through the pain.

As I sought him out, I heard His subtle whispers, felt His presence in the beauty of ordinary moments, and saw the reminders of His love for me. In that first grief season, I asked Him many questions but received few answers. I also fought against my reality. I didn’t want “this”. I wanted a child. I wanted answers. Why was this happening to me? And the harder I fought, the more I felt frustrated. But then I realized God was inviting me into a season of healing and discovery instead of simply giving me all the answers I thought I needed.

Finding God in Grief

Finding God in Grief

I saw God differently through that season. While I always believed His plan was redemption (we see that in the life of Jesus), I started to find His redemption in my season of loss. It happened when I stopped trying to fight against my reality. (It was as if I stopped fighting Him.) I let go of my desire for control. I felt God asking me to open my hands and release the things I’d held on to for so long (my desire for a child). As I opened my hands, my heart opened too, and I started to tell God anything (and everything).

Through our constant conversation, I realized He was always with me, and I was comforted. While my circumstances didn’t change, I changed. And that’s what prayer does—it changes us. My perspective shifted. Relinquishing my desire for control brought freedom. I found life in this place of surrender. Often, we think of surrender as giving up, but surrendering to God is different. As we surrender, we acknowledge who He is (loving, faithful, constant, redeemer) and stand by faith that He’s at work even when we can’t see it (yet). It wasn’t enough for me to surrender once; it was a daily challenge. And some days, it was easier than others. This simple but complex decision changed everything. I no longer tried to control my circumstances and make life work as I wanted. Instead, what I desired most was to see God at work in my life. He gave me places of purpose even in circumstances I did not like.

Learning to Surrender

If you’re feeling the weight of grief or discouragement in your current season, I invite you to let go of the things you desperately want to control. Open your hands and surrender them to God. Maybe you’re here because you’re dealing with the loss of a child or the loss of a mother, or perhaps you haven’t experienced the joy of mothering the precious child you long to hold. There is freedom waiting for you on the other side of this decision. As you let go of the desire for control, you’ll also release the pain, disappointment, and discouragement you feel right now.

Jesus is our source of comfort. You don’t have to know how it will work, and you don’t need to see the entire process laid out systematically before you. All that’s required now is a willingness to take the first step. Prayer is, at its core, a conversation between us and God. If you have a complicated history with prayer or feel like it’s a place of disconnection, let’s lay aside the past to embrace a different perspective. We can find comfort through prayer. It draws us closer and is where we pour out the pain in our hearts. Prayer is a source of strength in our darkest hours. It’s a powerful tool as we walk through a difficult season.

Comfort Through Prayer

Join me in the following prayer: “God, I come to you with weariness from my present circumstances. I’m frustrated with all I’m holding right now. When I look across the landscape of my life, I feel discouraged by the battles I’ve faced, the places where I feel like I’ve lost, and the many obstacles that lie ahead. I want more than “this”. But I can’t do it on my own. And as much as I feel stuck in this moment, God, I believe you are good and have good plans for my future. I embrace the words You spoke through Jeremiah (29:11-14), I believe you have “plans to give me the future that I’ve hoped for, that you listen to me, and that when I look, I’ll find you (The Message). I place my hope in Your unfailing love; help me to find Your comfort and renewal. God, I’m looking for you, calling to you, and searching for you. Meet me in this moment and help me see more than the circumstances I’m walking through right now. You are the God of all comfort. Please hold me in your loving arms and comfort me now. God, I open my hands and surrender. Show me the way through this season of mourning; help me find moments of joy as I walk through the coming days. 

There’s no pressure to say “the right words, if a more traditional prayer works for you, then embrace it—sit quietly and focus on God. But if you want to go outside, take a walk, and talk with God, just like you would with friends or family members, give yourself the grace to pray that way. You can begin by saying “Dear God or Father God, you can close in “Jesus’ name, or you can keep it more casual and focus on the sincerity of conversational, heartfelt prayers. What you say isn’t as important as expressing your thoughts and feelings. And God’s presence is with you whether you say your prayer out loud or within your heart. He is the God of all comfort and brings comfort through prayer. God bends his ear close, and he listens to you. He has compassion for you and is even more attentive than you would be to a grieving friend.

Finding support and comfort when grieving

Surrounding Yourself With Support

And friend, if you’re traveling this path of sorrow, I encourage you to reach out to your friends, family, coach, or counselor. We need additional support when we are walking through the darkness of grief. We need someone to help light the way for us. Please share this article with them and allow them to step into a place of practical help and emotional support. When we talk about the reality of our heavy burdens with another, they don’t have to fix it; they don’t need to tell us how to find our way through; instead, the power of sharing our struggles means that we do not carry them alone.

If you’re reading this because a friend shared it with you, thank you for holding your dear friend’s heart so close. You are living proof of God’s goodness, and your presence is powerful. Just by sitting in this space with them, you are a guiding light, bringing divine comfort to their weary soul. 

Grief is not the end of the story. It’s not the end of my story, and it’s not the end of yours. The darkest moments of my life have birthed a legacy through my life. For more, listen to Episode 20 from my podcast, To Help You Heal.

Your feelings about Mother’s Day are valid and shared by many, even if they’re left unspoken. If you find yourself wrestling with sorrow, reach out—you are not alone. Together, we can redefine this day not just as one of celebration but as one of understanding and mutual support. Let us make room for every story, tear, and laugh, giving grace for the ways we experience love and loss. In sharing our stories, we find strength and healing along the way.