women

Balancing Celebration and Grief on Mother’s Day

Post Icon

“Can all the mothers in the room stand so that we can honor you today?”

You’ve probably heard this prompt during a church service on Mother’s Day morning. I know I heard it plenty, and I didn’t think anything of it until the weight of infertility and pregnancy loss anchored me to my seat. We endured several years of waiting and loss before we welcomed our son. Every year, I dreaded the moment of recognition during the service, knowing it would be one more reminder of our unanswered prayers.

In sharing my own experience of longing for motherhood, I met other women who felt forgotten on Mother’s Day: those whose mothers had passed away, those who were estranged from their mothers, single women who longed to be mothers, and so many others who struggled to celebrate this holiday. It seemed as if this practice of recognizing mothers, while important, also inadvertently ignored those who struggle with Mother’s Day. I would argue that this holiday should prompt us to celebrate all forms of motherhood and to grieve the brokenness of our world and our relationships.

Happy Mother’s Day to every woman of God who nurtures and cares and teaches the next generation to know Christ and make him known.

Celebrating Mother’s Day

First, we can and should celebrate mothers of all kinds. If we understand mothers to be all women who nurture and care for others, then we don’t have to limit the conversation to only the women who have children in their home. So we celebrate the women who have chosen to adopt because they beautifully exemplify the gospel. We acknowledge the women who foster as they provide a safe place and pour out love for those children. And we can appreciate new moms, stay at home moms, working moms, and every woman who cares for their precious children.

But we also should praise the women, single or married, who mentor, disciple, and spiritually nourish the next generation. Regardless of how they become part of your family, women in Christ are tasked with spiritual motherhood, and that is something we should acknowledge and celebrate even more than a woman’s reproductive capacity. This celebration of all women reflects the high value of the family of God and looks beyond our traditional understanding of “mothers” to be recognized and appreciated. Ask yourself: who are the women who have spiritually mothered you, who have been integral to your growth in Christ?

Grieving Mother’s Day

But we also need to grieve the brokenness of our world and our relationships. It’s possible to hold both grief and celebration together, if we allow space for both. There’s room in my Mother’s Day to grieve the children I carried but never met; there’s space to grieve my grandmother who is with the Lord. They are part of my journey as a woman and a spiritual mother, but we also should grieve how sin brought spiritual and physical death into our world. There’s space to acknowledge the women who long for motherhood, whether as single women or those who are unable to have children. There are no barren women in the kingdom of God.

I can encourage and lift up the women I know who grieve the lost relationship with their mothers either because of conflict or because of death. When reconciliation feels (or is) impossible, that finality is heavy and painful. This holiday can trigger or provoke grief in so many ways, and that grief is valid because our world and our bodies and our relationships are deeply broken by sin. If that’s you, we see you. You have not been forgotten.

Taking Off the Blinders

So what do we do with all this? I’d argue we take off the blinders and look around at all the women we’ve missed on Mother’s Day. Who needs you to say, “I see you”? Who can you acknowledge for their spiritual nurturing and mothering? I have seen churches do this well when they acknowledge all the women of the congregation, identifying their faithfulness in spiritual motherhood as something beautiful and worthy of recognition. If we can expand our perspective to emphasize the family of God rather than just the nuclear family, we see that every woman is called and able to spiritually mother others.

If you’re grieving this Mother’s Day, especially privately, let me encourage you to share that burden with someone. In my experience, when I opened up to other women, they listened and often shared similar, unspoken burdens of their own. I felt seen, and that was comforting given how taboo and hidden these struggles can be.

If someone shares their grief with you this Mother’s Day, consider the honor it is to walk through this with them. Don’t try to paint a picture of a hopeful future or say “One day when you’re a mom…” Sit with them in their grief today.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to every woman of God who nurtures and cares and teaches the next generation to know Christ and make him known. You are a blessing to the Church, and we see you.

Never miss an episode, article, or study.

Sign up for the CFC newsletter now!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

  • women
Kelsey Hamilton

Counseling Coordinator for Student Life at SEBTS

Kelsey Hamilton is currently working on her PhD in Christian Counseling at SEBTS and serves as the counseling coordinator for the Student Life office. When she’s not counseling or doing schoolwork, she enjoys spending time with her husband of 6 years, Jacob, and their very active son, Peyton. She’s also a Raleigh native who loves a good Tex-Mex restaurant, watching social documentaries, and reading non-fiction for fun

Never miss an episode, article, or study.

Sign up for the Christ and Culture newsletter now!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.