This weekend is Mother's Day ... perhaps one of the most dreaded days on the calendar for moms who have children in Heaven. For those of us who find ourselves in that situation, Mother's Day can be anything but happy.
The While We're Waiting ministry has brought me into contact with a number of hurting moms over the past couple of years, and for many of them, this will be their first Mother's Day without one of their precious children ... and I know several who have lost their only child within the past twelve months.
It's so hard for me to believe that this will be my fifth Mother's Day since my oldest daughter went to Heaven at the age of seventeen. And in those five years, I've learned a few things about surviving the day ... at least some things that have helped me. So that's what this month's Ten on the Tenth is about ... What can we do when Mother's Day is not happy?
1. Accept the fact that the day will be difficult. Yeah, I know ... Duh. Of course we know that the day will be difficult! But knowing it and accepting it, I think, are a little different. Accept the fact that it will be tough, but it's just another 24 hours, and know that you will get through it.
2. Remember that the anticipation of a difficult day is quite often worse than the day itself. Sometimes we can even make ourselves physically ill with anticipation. A Scripture that has really helped me with this one is Psalm 94: 18-19 ... "When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.'"
3. Have a plan. I can't stress this one enough. Don't wait until the day arrives and then be swept along into whatever activity is going on. Take some time before the day gets here and think about how you want to spend the day. Are you going to go to church or not? Do you want to go out to eat or have a quiet meal at home? Will you want to visit your child's grave? Maybe you'll want to go visit your own mother. Whatever it is you want to do, exerting some control over the situation by making a plan may help you feel less at the mercy of the day.
4. Once you have thought through your plan, be sure to communicate it to your family and friends. Don't assume they'll know what you need ... they won't ... so be sure to tell them how you want to spend the day. After all, if there is any day when they should be willing to do what pleases you, it is Mother's Day.
5. Don't feel like you have to go to church on Mother's Day. I'm not normally one to recommend skipping church, but seeing all those other moms sitting with their children while the pastor extols the joys of motherhood may not be what you need on this particular day. If it's too painful, don't feel guilty about not going to church.
6. If you feel that going to church would be comforting to you, then by all means, go! I did go to church on my first Mother's Day without Hannah, and made it through the service okay, but when it was over, all I wanted to do was get out of there before I had a complete emotional breakdown! Unfortunately, I had not communicated this need to my husband beforehand, and he wanted to stand around and talk after church like he always does. A good example of Point #4 ... I could have saved both of us a lot of heartache if I had told him what my needs were ahead of time.
7. Remember that there's nothing wrong with having a good cry. Or several, if that's what it takes to get through the day. God gave us the gift of tears for a reason.
8. Realize that you are not alone as a grieving mom. I know that there are far more of us than I ever realized there were. Remember that Mary's heart was also broken when her son died a horrendous death on a cruel cross.
9. Look for a gift from God at some point during the day. It was while we were eating lunch on my first Mother's Day without Hannah that my brother told me about a Facebook post she had made. In January of 2008, one month before she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Hannah had posted, "This world has nothing for me -- I will live for Him." What a gift that was to "hear" her say in her own words that she was not bound to the things of this world. It was a huge comfort to me, and although much is a blur about that first Mother's Day, that is one thing I remember clearly. Keep your eyes and your heart open ... God just might give you a Mother's Day gift this year.
10. Remember that just because your child now lives in Heaven does not make you any less of a mom. Nothing can change the fact that you are your child's mother. At the beginning of the book of Job, Job loses his ten children along with his health and all of his worldly possessions. At the end of the story, Job receives double all he had lost during his time of trial: 14,000 sheep to replace the 7,000; 6,000 camels to replace the 3,000; 1,000 oxen and donkeys to replace 500. But there is one exception -- previously Job had seven sons and three daughters, and in the restoration, he receives seven sons and three daughters. Why didn't he receive double the number of children he had? I believe he did. He still had the ten children he had before ... they were just living in Heaven now instead of on earth. So now he had ten in Heaven and ten on earth, and one day they would all be together eternally. Now that's a comforting thought!