pastoral/spiritual care

A Difficult Mother's Day

Many people celebrate Mother’s Day by making breakfast in bed for their wives, bringing flowers and cards to their mothers, making long distance phone calls, and sharing good memories of the mothers they knew.  For others, however, it is a very difficult day.  Some no longer have a mother, because of death, abandonment, or other circumstances.  Others may never have known a mother, or have had a very difficult relationship with her, and walking down the greeting card aisle filled with cards for “the world’s greatest mother” and the like is a painful reminder of that.  There are some whose mothers are too far away to drive over and take her out to brunch, and others whose mothers are too ill to leave a hospital or nursing home.  For some women, this day brings pain because of their deep, unfulfilled desire to be mothers.  Wanting and not having children brings a unique kind of sadness, particularly when friends and family members all around are receiving cards and gifts from their children on Mother’s Day. 

Life’s celebrations often bring with them some complicated grief.  When we are celebrating, it is easy to assume that the occasion brings joy to everyone around us as well.  But this is not always the case.  Many holidays put an emphasis on family time, and those who have lost a family member may feel the loss even more deeply then.  Major life changes like the birth of a child, the beginning of a new job, or a marriage are other times when our first instinct is to congratulate the persons experiencing these things.  However, they may be experiencing fear and sadness at the upheaval in their lives, added to the guilt they may feel at not being happy like they “should” be.

One of the most caring things we can do for another person is not to place our assumptions upon them, but allow ourselves to remain open to their feelings.  God has given us the ability to empathize, to feel in some small measure what the other is feeling.  It can be a great gift to one who is in pain to have an empathetic listener reflect his or her feelings.  But this can only happen when we do not allow our own expectations to get in the way.  Before rushing to the conclusion that everyone else must be happy it’s Mother’s Day, or looking forward to the weekend, or sad that their loved one is dying, a great gift can be simply to ask, “How are you feeling?”

We ask your help, O God, to deal appropriately with both the joys and difficulties holidays can bring.  We all come with different needs.  Give us the wisdom to know how to help one another.  Grant us the grace to speak words to those who are hurting that will build them up.  Teach us the words to say about you that will draw others closer to your life-giving love.  Amen.

-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent

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