I’ve been a mother for ten years now, but the day set aside to honor all mothers everywhere still doesn’t feel like my holiday. I remember, as a teenager, and later as a young adult, trying to figure out what to do for my own mom. Because this was, and in some ways still is her special day. My mom worked hard, she didn’t have much, and there were a lot of us. Seven to be exact. Four in the house during my teens.
One year I went to the mall, and one of the aisle vendors was selling electronic head massagers. It cost about $40, a king’s ransom for someone just dipping her toe into the workforce, but the salesman did a demo, and I was sold. My mom got really bad migraines, and the massager could be used on both the head and shoulders to relieve tension. It felt so good, and I just knew my mom would love it.
Except, she didn’t. When I gave her the massager, she raised her eyebrows and curled her lips, and refused to even try it. My aunt did a demo to show her how nice it was, but my mom still wouldn’t touch it. It sat on her dresser for months.
A few years later, I found the massager in her purse, taped together at the base. I asked her about it, and she told me she’d gotten a really bad headache one day and decided to try it, and she’d been using the massager ever since. So much so that the thing was falling apart. But she refused to throw it away because it worked so well.
Some people have fantastic relationships with their mothers. They go on trips together, go shopping together, and tell each other everything. This was not the kind of relationship I had with my mom. “Complicated” is the best word I have for it. And when she died, that complicated relationship didn’t just go away.
Mother’s Day isn’t easy for all of us. If your mother isn’t here, or you’ve got a complicated relationship too, this post is for you. My mom was a wonderful, God-fearing woman, and no mother is perfect. But what do you do when you’ve got unresolved issues with your imperfect mother? What can you do when that imperfect mother is no longer here?
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT) says:
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Easier said than done, I know. Mothers can say and do things that wound us. We carry those wounds with us for decades and try our hardest not to pass them on to our own children. But bitterness isn’t something we can control. It seeps out in places we don’t want it to go. We have to deal with it. We can’t ignore it and pretend our wounds don’t exist. But dwelling on the pain won’t fix it, either.
I remember having a conversation with my mom right after my first child was born. It was one of the first times we had an honest conversation about how I felt growing up, and how she felt as a single mother. She was dealing with bitterness of her own, and it seeped out in unintended ways. But she reaffirmed her love for me and for all of her children, and as a new mother, I gained some much-needed perspective.
It didn’t fix everything. But it helped me to see my mom, not as my mom, but as a person. A person who, just like me, needed grace, and kindness, and forgiveness.
It’s difficult to reconcile the person we see with the person we remember. Even more so when that person is no longer around. Grief takes time and grace to process, even if your relationship with your mother is good. And death takes away not just the person but the opportunity for future reconciliation.
So what do you do when you’re left with a wound, and no one is there to say I’m sorry? There are a few steps you can take towards healing:
- Go to your heavenly Father. Our parents aren’t perfect, but we serve a God who is. He loves us and wants to bring healing to our hearts. Let Him work in you.
- Share your stories. Christian community is a good place to start. Share with other mothers, other daughters, other sons. Chances are, they’ve felt what you’ve felt. And share your stories with your children. They need to hear them.
- Celebrate. Being a mother is not an easy assignment. Celebrate the gift of motherhood. Without it, you wouldn’t be here. And you being here is reason enough. Celebrate the other mothers in your life, too (spiritual mothers, grandmothers, friends who are mothers, etc.). If you’re a mother, celebrate yourself. Enjoy your handmade cards and flowers, scrambled eggs with bits of shell, and all the festivities that come with Mother’s Day.
- Forgive. Today, and every day until it stops hurting.
I miss my mom. There were times when I really struggled to understand her, and there were times with her that were really great. There are things I regret saying and doing as her daughter and things I wish I could take back. But I’m grateful for the times we shared. She loved board games and always left us broke in Monopoly. She loved kids, especially her grandbabies. She had a strong personality, a strong faith, and strong opinions. Mother’s Day still feels strange without her.
If you’re struggling on Mother’s Day, you’re not alone. Whether you’re grieving the physical loss of your mother or a break in the relationship, take some time to acknowledge your imperfect mother–the good, the bad, everything. And forgive your imperfect mother, just as your heavenly Father forgives imperfect you.