The Unspoken Pain of Mother’s Day

Erik Cooper —  May 11, 2011 — 9 Comments

The scent of the Mother’s Day bouquet hasn’t completely disappeared from our kitchen. Just a few days removed from the celebration of all things maternal, I find myself in a coffee shop pondering the plethora of (mixed) comments I’ve received on our approach to Mother’s Day at City Community Church.

This year, the celebration of motherhood intersected week two of our new message series on pain (great planning there guys…nice forethought). But instead of diverting the trajectory, we decided to throw Mother’s Day into the tension and just admit….

…there’s a lot of unspoken pain on Mother’s Day.


Broken relationships.

Abandonment and abuse.


Death and separation.

The reality is, while many are celebrating with fancy hats, pastel dresses, bouquets of flowers, and family dinners, a lot of people are quietly mourning what they didn’t have, don’t have, or may never have.

A day of celebration. A day of mourning.

So we decided to talk about it.

We utilized a beautifully uncomfortable script penned by an old friend.  Julie has struggled with infertility for nearly a decade and a half, and “Mother’s Day Letters” takes a look at the wide variety of emotions people experience on this day.

The audio is linked here (it’s worth a listen):

Mother’s Day Letters

So much celebration. So much pain. All wrapped up into one day. What do we do with the tension?

We step into it.

I stumbled onto this tweet by Glenn Packiam, a guy I really respect, that sums this up pretty nicely:

“Glorifying pain is brutality; idealizing happiness is sentimentality; weaving grief and joy together is Beauty.” –Glenn Packiam

God is present in the celebration and the mourning. In the joy and in the grief. In death and in resurrection.

Which words best describe your Mother’s Day emotions this year?

Listen to the entire Everybody Hurts…Sometimes: Mother’s Day message by clicking here: message

9 responses to The Unspoken Pain of Mother’s Day

  1. Interesting approach. Haven’t listened yet, but I think it’s good to address those issues. When we lost Jacob, Mother’s Day fell three months after his birth/death. It was awful. I didn’t want to go to church. I didn’t know whether I should stand up at the gratuitous call for mothers to be recognized. It was horrible. I just sat there and wept. I remember wanting someone to notice or acknowledge that it hurt, but also wanting to hide. I didn’t expect anyone to fix it, but I didn’t want to feel badly for feeling badly in the midst of all the smiles, flowers and babies around me.

    Mother’s Day is bittersweet now in many ways. I have two wonderful boys, but I miss the children I’ve lost and my own relationship with my mom is not all that it could be. Truth is I don’t get that emotional about Mother’s Day these days, maybe that’s just to avoid the negative feelings that are associated with the day, or maybe it’s just because I know Jacob is in heaven, and I know Monday is coming and the sibling rivalry will resume here on earth (if it didn’t by Sunday evening ;).

    Looking forward to hearing how you guys addressed it.

    • It’s such an interesting tension. We don’t want to celebrate pain, to live there. I think some people have experienced so much pain, they almost don’t know how to exist without it. But so many have shared stories very similar to yours. We can’t trivialize the reality of it. Always appreciate your honesty Lois.

  2. Hey Eric,

    It’s always nice to have pain recognized. My mother died in Nov. and the whole idea of Mother’s Day felt oppressing to me. So, I stayed home from church while the rest of my family went. I did not want to hear or see the mushy stuff that happens. I appreciate your willingness to look at both sides of the coin. I didn’t want to focus on the child I miscarried 5 years ago or the mom I loss 5 mos. ago, but the heart wins out over the mind sometimes. I wanted to focus on the 2 wonderful children I have, and I did. But the undercurrent of what is gone flowed violently. I am having the same knee jerk reaction to listening to the audio. Don’t take it personally if I opt out. Keep on being real.

    • I don’t blame you at all Faith. And I don’t think it’s wrong for you to struggle focusing on the good things. I think it’s normal. I am learning that God is present in both the celebration and the grief. He really is close to the brokenhearted.

  3. I don’t hurt anymore. I wish everyone a happy Mother’s Day. Shouldn’t everyone who wants have a good day Mother or not? I continue like every other Sunday knowing that God loves me. My mother is gone. I miss her, but death and separation is a part of life so I go on. I never had children and found Mother’s Day very painful for many years because of that. One day I realized that I don’t have children because I have been busy doing exactly what God wants me to do. So, my childlessness is not my problem, it is His. I’m greatful that I no longer feel the pain. I am equally greatful that you recognize that the happy part of the day is very challenging for many. My husband feels his own pain as he had 2 step children who were yanked out of his life when his ex left him. So, on Mother’s day we went to a not quite so popular spot, had wonderful chicken sandwiches, talked about what is important to us now, then came home and worked on projects important to us.
    Kudos to you for being courageous to jump in where many don’t even want to see what is there.

    • Thanks for sharing a bit of your story Sharon. We find strength in the vulnerability of others. I wish it was always easy, but it sounds like you’ve found God to be present, even in the difficulties.

  4. Thank you for doing this! Excellent.

  5. Erik, I love this. Tension exists in every realm of this world. Good for you acknowledging it and claiming it as is. I LOVE the quote you shared, too. My life is a constant interweaving of joy and grief every day. It’s the most befuddling thing…yet beautiful, too.

    • I can’t imagine Jill. I know you and R.D. know the interweaving of joy and pain all too well. Appreciate your encouragement, and the example you guys are as you try and live it out.

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