For many women, Mother’s Day means recognition from their families for their love and service and the satisfaction of having loved ones lean in and love on and serve them for a day. While these women feel filled with gratitude and abundance on this special Sunday in May, there are pockets of other women that feel very differently about Mother’s Day. Most of these women never speak up and certainly don’t want to be recognized for how they feel, yet May brings dread to their hearts each year.
Mother’s Day for these women is a reminder of loss, emptiness, disappointment, heartbreak, and broken dreams. For the women that have journeyed the lonely and silent halls of miscarriage, infertility, stillbirth and even abortion there is no socially acceptable space for them on this day. Many have had their loss discounted and certainly their grief is often misunderstood. They have been told they didn’t actually experience a loss because that life never truly existed and they need to “get over it” and move on. Very few of these women have ever been given the chance or time to process and grieve what was lost and what they experienced. It is a hidden grief and can often leave them feeling isolated.
Huffington Post reported that 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. When you add the number of women that have experienced infertility or stillbirth as well, then potentially 1 out of every 5 women in your Church on Mother’s Day is experiencing some hard and tangled emotions. We, as a church, can do a better job acknowledging this pain and validating their loss. This doesn’t have to mean a pointed conversation or drawing attention to them directly. There are significant and subtle ways to gently and creatively show these women that they are seen and valued. And just as importantly, that the child they lost and are remembering is significant to them, to the church and to the Lord.
On Mother’s Day, churches often honor mothers by giving each one a rose or a gift. A way one church decided to honor these mothers that have experienced loss was by having a table full of candles. After the pastor speaking to their grief and acknowledging their loss the mothers are invited to light a candle to represent their child that was lost before or during birth. Some women took the opportunity and found it to be a sacred moment while others simply appreciated that their loss was recognized. It can be a time of healing and even newfound hope for women that have grieved in silence to know that they are seen and heard, maybe for the first time.
Mother’s Day is a holiday meant to honor the role of mother, which is full of complexities. What an honor the church has to celebrate both the joys and triumphs of motherhood along with the sorrows.
With this insight into the hidden grief so many mothers bear, in what new ways could your church minister to the mothers in your congregation?