When my home was full of toddlers, all I wanted for Mother’s Day was a day off from motherhood. I longed for an entire day when I didn’t have to wipe anything other than my lips after enjoying a meal cooked by someone else. After the death of my youngest son, that changed, and Mother’s Day fell under the shadow of grief.
Grieving over the loss of a child is birth turned inside out. In birth, the painful labor contractions get closer together and end in a joyous celebration of life. But then, there are the agonizing contractions of death that squeeze the soul. They grow further apart over the years. And yet, they never end completely and only produce empty arms.
Many of us grieve motherhood on Mother’s Day. The loss of your mother, the hope of ever becoming a mother, or the loss of a child.
For me, the sorrow of grief comes in waves that often crest with things not done. It is motherhood interrupted. The dreams I held for the future are buried with him. But they are not laid to rest.
My son loved to play chess, and I didn’t learn to play it with him. He dreamed of becoming a pilot, so he joined the Civil Air Patrol. He never got to ride on an airplane or a train. I promised him we would do both. Those were two promises I broke. Broken by procrastination and the false security that there would always be a tomorrow.
I didn’t get to hear the whole story he was formulating about the “Land of Aarolyn and Its Seven Honorable Kings.” It was his first attempt at writing a novel. I know he would have told me more if he had not perceived me as too busy to listen.
His youthful creativity began to spread into writing, storytelling, and illustration—a joy to his artist mother’s heart. The mental gears in his mind constantly whirled with plans for inventions and contraptions. He could have written a book entitled 101 Things You Can Make With Firecrackers: How to Make Your Own Toys and Turn Your Mother’s Hair Grey at The Same Time.
I lost him in the springtime of his life. With boyishness fading daily, he was just beginning to blossom into the man he would become. The jawline of boyhood started to outline his budding masculinity and gave us a peek at the emerging man inside.
What am I really grieving?
I grieve my lost motherhood. My sorrow comes not only from missing him so desperately but the life I would have lived as his mother. I grieve over my shortcomings, my busyness, my failures, and my broken promises.
I want a chance to do it over again.
It is a painful thought, to know, I will never be a better mother to him.
Mothering him is gone forever.
That’s what hurts down to the bone. It’s the incomplete mothering. Losing the joy only children can bring and the promise of a lifetime of delighting in them.
I will go to him.
In 2 Samuel 12:22-23, David answered, ‘While the child was alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let him live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.’
In this, I trust, “I will go to him.”
I know he is in the presence of God — where I will join him one day. Even though our broken mothers’ hearts will never be fully healed of the child-sized hole it bears, we can experience peace.
This Mother’s Day, I invite you to join me in tending our hearts.
Grieve if you must. But do so in love. When the pain of what-is-not comes in like a flood, meet it with what-is. That which can never be taken from you: the thoughts of your life together which brought you the most joy. In that, it’s safe for your heart and mind to dwell.
The seasons of motherhood are always changing. As are the seasons of grief. When we tend to our hearts by being thankful for the goodness in our lives, then even death can’t take it from us.