Dear Pastors and Churches,
Mother’s Day is here, and with it social media is filled with happy slogans revealing flowery images. Mothers are amazing, sacrificial women, who deserved to be honored for their contributions to the advancement of society, and to God’s Kingdom; but there is also a lack of sensitivity to women who will not be recognized on Sunday. Women whose emotions vary from happy, to bittersweet, to deep feelings of sadness.
I would like to encourage God’s people to be aware of, and to recognize, SIX groups of women who may be sitting in your pews on Sunday and feeling grieved, or left out: as well as to provide you with several ways to include them in your celebration.
- Mothers of children who have died. I have eight beautiful children and eleven grandchildren who fill my life with love, but every Mother’s Day is a stark reminder of my son who is missing. It has been twenty five years since Michaiah died, but every Mother’s Day there is one less place setting, one less piece of dessert, and one less hug to warm my heart.
In my work as an international disaster chaplain, I have met people who have lost several children – sometimes their entire family. For them, Mother’s Day is stricken with memories of loss.
(It doesn’t matter how long it has been – the death of our child goes against everything that is good and right in our world. Depending upon when or how the child died, Mother’s Day will often bring about increased feelings of loss, and symptoms of grief and depression.
- Women without children. About 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. I have spoken to women who stay home from church on Mother’s Day rather than be exposed to “feelings of inadequacy.” The flowers, plants, or trinkets that are given out, as well as the recognition and applause, is a stab in the heart to those who are left out of the celebration for reasons beyond their control. Words of “encouragement” such as “God will give you a baby,” or “Relax and it will happen” are awkward reminders of how ill equipped people are to respond in a helpful manner.
- Women who have miscarried. This is one of the most unrecognized groups of women in the church. Well-meaning people again make ill-placed statements such as, “You can have another baby,” or “You have two children already,” undermining the loss of the baby. Mother’s Day is not only a reminder of their babies that died, but also of their unrecognized grief, and the lack of support that has been offered to them.
- Women who have given up children for adoption. As the mother of an adopted child, I thank my son’s birth mother for the wonderful gift of life she gave Samuel (Pictured below, on the day we arrived home from Kazakhstan). I don’t know if she grieves on Mother’s Day or not, but I have counseled mothers who do. I also know that Sam’s mom chose to carry him, birth him, and do what was in his best interest with hope for a brighter future. For many mothers who have given up their children to adoption, it is the ultimate sacrifice, and one in which they will feel the pain of the choice for a lifetime.
Post-abortive women. I am a post-abortive woman. You may think why should we acknowledge mothers who took the lives or our own children? We have children with the Lord. We are forgiven. Many churches and church goers still hold in contempt the choice to terminate a pregnancy, while the women who had abortions live with post-abortion trauma, guilt, regrets, and an inability to accept God’s forgiveness, and forgive themselves. Mother’s Day is the perfect day to reach out to these hurting women and encourage them of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. Remind them that their babies are with God, and they will see them again.
- Women (and men) whose moms, have died. My mother died thirteen years ago and I miss her, as countless of others do as well. Whether we had a good relationship or one begging for improvement, Mother’s Day is reminder of what was lost, or never gained. For those who are experiencing the recent loss of a mother, it can be a particularly difficult time. (There are also men who are mourning the loss of their wives – mothers of their young children who they are now forced to raise alone.)
What you can do:
- If your church has mothers come to the front or stand up for recognition, considering having them stay where they are. When a childless woman is left sitting with the men or children, it reinforces their loss and makes them stand apart from the other mothers and women.
- When you give our flowers, plants or other trinkets, considering giving them to all of the women in your church, and not just those you know to have given birth, or adopted.
- Acknowledge the loss of children to accidents, illness, miscarriages, stillbirth or abortion. Offer a prayer of support for the mothers who are hurting. A moment of silent memory for those who have gone before us gives everyone a chance to feel included, and affirmed in our grief.
- Consider planting a tree, flowers, or dedicate a mother appropriate wall-hanging for those who have lost children, or are childless.
- Have a memory jar, cross, or other location, where notes can be placed inside or tacked up, to remember a loved one, offer up words of love, or give to God the pain of loss, or childlessness.
- Educate the church. This begins by simply acknowledging these losses as I have suggested here. You can also supply resources for the church to become better educated in grief and loss, or by training as provided by organizations such as mine. ( http://www.compassionatereach.org )
A heart is given to all women who “mother.” They willingly and repeatedly sacrifice themselves to care for their children, even when those children may only attend their church, be their students, neighbors, or friends. Mothers give up their food when their children are hungry, their sleep when their children are sick, and their physical comforts when their children may be better served.
Mothers lay down their lives.
Let’s not forget all women whose hearts are given in love this Mother’s Day, and honor them with our actions.
In Genuine Love,
Jamie Grubb – A Mother