When Mother’s Day Hurts

“When we come to God in honesty and transparency, admitting our struggles and asking for His help, He meets us there.” by Lori Hatcher

I’ve always felt ambivalent about Mother’s Day. While it’s fun to be showered with attention, gifts and accolades, not every Mother’s Day turns out that way. Some years our husbands or kids forget. Other years we’re home with sick children and miss all the cool tributes at church. As our children become teenagers and young adults, we might spend a Mother’s Day or two (or three) buried in mommy guilt and feeling like a total failure. 

Normal Mother’s Day angst, however, doesn’t begin to touch the pain some women experience when this holiday rolls around. My friend Carol lost her daughter Hailey in a tragic accident several years ago. Mother’s Day reminds her anew that there is now only one daughter where there used to be two. 

This was my friend Diane’s first Mother’s Day without her mom. She died last summer after a lengthy illness. Diane expected to miss her mother but was surprised by the intensity of her feelings of loss and loneliness. Katie and her husband have struggled with infertility for years and lost a baby to miscarriage. As one friend after another posts pictures of herself surrounded by her smiling children, Katie battles feelings of jealousy and anger. And then there’s Ginnie, whose prodigal son has crushed her heart more times than she can count. The fear that he may never find his way back colors the edges of every day, but Mother’s Day is the worst. She finds it hard to smile on the outside while crying on the inside.

Each of my friends finds Mother’s Day difficult. But instead of checking out, staying home, avoiding social media and burying their heads in the tear-soaked sand of the day, they choose to redeem their pain. Here are four examples of how these godly, amazing women have embraced victory over victimhood on Mother’s Day.


Carol believes in the sovereignty of God. While she doesn’t understand why her young adult daughter died, she takes comfort in the fact that not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s notice. She clings to Romans 8:28, trusting that while all things are not good, God promises to use all things for good if she trusts Him.

In the years that have passed since her daughter’s death, many of Hailey’s friends have reached out to Carol for counsel, comfort and words of faith. They talk to her like they talked to Hailey. Their transparency and trust allow Carol to speak the truth of God’s Word into their lives, pray for them and hold them accountable. She realizes these opportunities are one way God is bringing beauty from the ashes of her daughter’s death.


Diane misses her mother most on Saturdays. Every week for three years she’d pack up her hair dryer, curling iron and hairspray and spend the morning at the nursing home. She’d wash and style her mother’s hair, paint her nails and tell her about what had happened that week. In contrast to their fun times together, she noticed some residents never received visitors. 

After her mother died, instead of feeling sorry for herself and wallowing in her grief, Diane made a choice. If she couldn’t shower love on her mama, she would share it with somebody else’s. She began visiting the nursing home again, focusing on those residents who had few or no visitors. Spending time with them wasn’t the same as visiting with her mother, but it took the edge off her loneliness and grief. 

Before long, Diane found herself looking forward to her Saturday nursing home visits again. And so did the residents with whom she spent time. On Mother’s Day, she delivered cards and flowers to three precious residents instead of one.


For years Katie awakened with the awareness of her childlessness and fell asleep still thinking about it. Her desire for a baby became all-consuming. She avoided baby showers, child dedication services, and, especially, Mother’s Day events. One morning in her quiet time, she read Romans 12:15, “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” She realized that begrudging other mothers their special moments was not helpful.

Now, instead of avoiding small children and young mothers, Katie and her husband volunteer in the preschool ministry at their church. They offer to babysit so weary, struggling couples can have a date night without paying the cost of a sitter. Until the Lord gives them a child, they intend to love and serve the children (and the parents) God has placed around them. 

This year on Mother’s Day, instead of mourning the fact that she doesn’t have a child, Katie chose to celebrate the fact that she had a mother. She cooked her mom a special lunch, complete with her mother’s favorite dessert, New York cheesecake. They laughed, shared childhood memories and prayed together. Her mother said it was the best Mother’s Day ever, and Katie agreed.


Although Mother’s Day will continue to be hard for Ginnie as long as her son is away from God, 2 Corinthians 10:5 helps her navigate this challenging day (and all the other ones): “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” 

Ginnie knows that when she focuses on fear, guilt and shame, she spirals into a pit of grief that’s hard to climb out of. When she takes her destructive thoughts captive and compares them to the truth of Scripture, however, the toxic thoughts lose their power.

When she feels anxious, she prays for her son, and the peace that surpasses all understanding washes over her (Phil. 4:7). When Satan whispers words of guilt and condemnation, she counters them with Bible verses that describe the forgiveness and restoration God offers. Instead of hiding the fact that her son is a prodigal, she shares her story with godly men and women and asks them to pray. 

This year on Mother’s Day, Ginnie cracked open her well-worn copy of “The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children” and spent the afternoon praying for her son. Like Abraham laid his son Isaac on the altar, she prayerfully entrusted her son to the Lord. She claimed the promise of Galatians 6:9: “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” She believes God will hear and answer her prayers.

Because Mother’s Day leaves little room for less-than-Hallmark scenarios, the day will always be a challenge for many women. Grief, loss, infertility and broken relationships have the power to hijack the holiday and use it to cause pain rather than joy. When we come to God in honesty and transparency, admitting our struggles and asking for His help, He meets us there. The truth of His Word, the comfort of His Spirit, and the power of His love enable us to redeem the day. 

“Don’t look out only for your own interests,” the apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:4, “but take an interest in others, too.” When we lift our eyes from our own sorrow and choose instead to serve others, we redeem our pain and use it for God’s glory. 

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