When Mother's/Father's Day Is Hard

Posted by Shanda Gunter, Chase Oaks Care Pastor, on May 03, 2024

When Mother's/Father's Day Is Hard

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are just around the corner. While these holidays are meant to be a time of joy, celebration, and opportunities to honor parents and parent-figures, they can also be hard.

Maybe you long to be a parent…and try as you might, it hasn’t happened.

Maybe you’ve experienced miscarriage, still birth, infant loss, or child loss.

Maybe you’ve lost a beloved parent. Or maybe the hardship comes because you’re dealing with a strained, painful, or even nonexistent relationship with a parent or a child.

All of these can stir up feelings like anger, resentment, sadness, confusion, and more. The common denominator for all of these scenarios is grief. If, like me, Mother’s/Father’s Day is a challenge, please know that you are not alone and that there are ways to care for yourself amid that pain and grief.

For example, I have two moms: a biological mother, and a stepmother who raised me and who I call mom. Mother’s Day has been hard for me as I have had a strained relationship with both moms. While we are in a season of repair and reconnection, this day can be difficult to navigate.

How much do I celebrate them? If I don’t acknowledge the date, I feel like a bad daughter. But if I do, there are times that it feels like side-stepping the pain I carry from years of relational tension, trauma, and abuse.

The day most often ends up with me making a phone call or sending a quick “Happy Mother’s Day!” text… and then we go on about our day. Honestly, this level of engagement works for us and our dynamic. We are all aware that we are healing and growing, so if this is what works for now—or forever—then that’s ok. I can grieve the fact that they haven’t been the mothers I needed, and I can honor and accept the progress we have made. My therapist always says, “Two competing statements can be true,” and this is a very fitting statement for our scenario.

Mother’s Day also carries a sting because I had a miscarriage in 2018. We wanted that baby so badly! As soon as the two pink lines showed on the test, my husband and I started dreaming about what our baby would look like and who our baby would grow to be. We felt deep confidence that she was a girl, even if it was too early to confirm. (Hey, we didn’t get it wrong with the other two.) We wondered if would she have my dark hair or his light brown? Would she have my brown eyes or his hazel eyes? We were certain that she would have my dimples—that’s how we pictured her. 

But then…she was gone.

I thought I knew grief until I experienced the miscarriage, but this was a deep-down, in-my-soul kind of grief I had never known before. We are very blessed to have our sweet rainbow son who came after her, but my heart will always long for her. Every Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think that we are missing one. There should be three little munchkins running into my room that morning with drawings and whatever they have concocted for me on Mother’s Day.

During that season of deep grief, I clung to 1 Peter 5:10 and its promises: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” I held onto these words to remind me of every time God has been faithful to me in my pain, and to focus on how he truly has worked it for good. 

About this verse, Jefferson Bethke says, “My wounds are deep, but his grace is deeper. He turned my wounds into scars.”

I still carry the scars of my grief and of my childhood trauma that makes Mother’s Day difficult, but God’s grace is so much deeper than the pains of this world. He will restore you, He will bring you out of this season stronger than when you went in, and friend, He will redeem every ounce of your pain.

So how do we care well for ourselves on a day that’s meant to be sunshine and rainbows but leaves us in grief and unrest?

Here are five things you can do:

1. Be honest with what you are feeling.

It’s tempting to try to hide or invalidate our emotions, or to be disappointed in ourselves for having them in the first place. But they are a part of our humanity—even ones like grief, anger, sadness, or anxiety from loss of control.

Jesus himself showed us that a flourishing life includes an embrace of the full range of emotions, even the unpleasant ones. In John 11, when his friend Lazarus passed away, Jesus went to visit the grieving family. He was met by Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, who said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We are told that “When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”

And then, we see in John 11:35 that “Jesus wept.” Although he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus entered the anguish of that moment. He felt the sting of death even as he knew he would overcome it. In doing so, he showed us that negative emotions have their place. He also revealed God’s compassion for us in our suffering.

If you can honestly identify your emotions as well as the source of your pain, you can start the road to healing and restoration.

2. Be mindful of the upcoming holiday and plan opportunities to care well for yourself, ahead of time.

This is a day that you may need a little extra self-care, so say yes to that massage, read that book you’ve been wanting to start for ages, or go for a long walk and get some sunshine on your skin. Look for opportunities to connect and laugh, or to let it all out if you need to cry (or hey, maybe a rage room is more your vibe). Whatever it is, look and plan ahead for opportunities for self-care.

3. Invite others into your journey.

When you are going through painful seasons, you may have heard someone say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” God will absolutely give you more than you can handle, because we are not meant to handle “it” alone. The need for community is integrated in our very DNA.

That’s been true from the beginning of humanity. In the story of creation, God looked at Adam, alone in the garden of Eden, and said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Gen. 2:18) He knew we all need someone to walk alongside us, supporting us, guiding us, and admonishing us when needed. Invite others into your journey—we are meant to have community to lean into when life is hard.

4. Take space to grieve.

Because of each of these scenarios involves grief, think through ways you can honor that grief. You grieve well when you are honest about the pain, anger, and loss you feel, and when you express your sadness to those who really understand and care. This will take a while. Grieving isn’t a smooth or quick process; it will change over time, even as it changes us for a lifetime.

5. Consider counseling.

Counseling is good for you, whether you’re really going through it or you just need a neutral outlet where you can verbally dump your thoughts and emotions. Therapy doesn’t have to be a last resort for when your life is falling apart. A good therapist is good for every season, including the highs and the lows. I go on Thursdays—maybe I’ll see you there.

If you (or someone you know) are among those for whom Mother’s/Father’s Day is hard, remember that you’re not alone. Whether you are grieving the child you long for because of infertility or loss or broken relationship, or you’re grieving a parent who has passed or was not the parent you needed, God can meet you in your grief. He desires for you to care well for yourself during this time, and to lean into him as a loving Father.

At Chase Oaks, we believe we get better together. Find more resources to help you care for yourself and others, here.

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