What to remember when you’re mourning mom at Mother’s Day

Mike McMillan

“Are you serious?” I gasped into the phone as my stepfather told me the news that I never thought I’d hear again. 

Brain cancer. Again. It’s a scourge as hated as hellfire in my mind, and in 11 months it would claim my mother just as it had done with my father a decade earlier.

In the early hours of May 8, 2014, my mom breathed her last. The last time I ever saw her was on a gurney being pulled out of her house by the funeral home. It was the end to 58 years of one of the most wonderful people I knew. 

There’s something about mothers that’s so endearing. For many of us, they have nearly unlimited love — surpassed only by God. I could always feel her in my corner, and growing up I was always happy when she’d come through the door — well, unless I screwed up. 

For the past three years, she hasn’t been there. If I think about her for any length of time, tears start to well. I’d like to say I’ve handled things well, but I haven’t. Mother’s Day can be tough because that’s approximately the time she died. In fact, last year’s anniversary fell on Mother’s Day. 

While every death is hard, and no one mourns the same, there are a few things these last three years have taught me about where to turn and what not to do. 

1. Anger can be your worst enemy. 

I was angry at God for allowing me to lose both parents by age 33. It’s easy to get angry, but that won’t bring back anyone. In fact, you’ll find yourself in a dark and lonely place.

In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” You might say that’s just a Bible verse, and you don’t feel comforted at all. But remember that grieving is a process, and it’s never comfortable. Jesus’ promise is that if we’ll allow ourselves to work through the pain, if we’ll allow ourselves to move from mad to mourning, we’ll find His comfort. 

2. Don’t stay by yourself. 

Another huge mistake I made was isolation. If you’re in the grieving process, it can be easy to shut down and tune out. What’s easy, however, isn’t always what’s best for you. 

We’re never meant to stay by ourselves — especially during times of grieving. Jesus was there for the sisters of Lazarus (John 11:11-36). While Jesus was on the cross, He made sure His mother would not be alone (John 19:26-27). When we lose someone, we’ll always need others by our side.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone to hang out if you’re feeling sad or lonely. Most folks aren’t mind readers and won’t be able to ascertain your emotional state unless you reach out. The healthiest thing you can do is get out. 

And if you know someone who’s grieving, don’t be afraid to reach out. You’ll never have the right words to say — nor should you expect to — but simply being there can say more than anything else. 

3. If you’re struggling, seek professional help!

“Oh, don’t tell me to go to a shrink!” Those outdated attitudes toward mental health can be the worst trap you can fall into. 

As the world becomes a darker and more complicated place to be, it will compound the path toward healing. If you put off seeing a counselor, you risk letting disruptive and negative patterns of thinking become your default setting. Counselors are often good at helping you discern patterns of thinking and can help point you in a healthy direction. 

Seeking professional help doesn’t make you “crazy” or “insane,” especially when you’re struggling through a difficult time. A counselor can help you steer away from patterns of thinking that could eventually lead to unhealthy means of coping. 

4. Share love with others. 

One thing my counselor told me is to add value to others’ lives. It’s not that others need value, but you can make their days brighter. You can visit nursing homes to visit the sick and elderly. Food pantries and various ministries in your town would be thrilled to get an extra hand. You’ll probably never exhaust the serving opportunities in your community. 

5. Don’t give up hope!

When you lose someone, hope may seem too far away to see with a telescope. When you find yourself in that place, remember 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

You can’t make it through the darkest valley without a light, and you can’t make it through the darkest times in your life without the Light of the World. Even if you’re angry with God, put that aside and try to hear from Him. You might realize He’s much closer than you think. 

I’ll admit these past three years since I lost my mom have been tremendously difficult, but I would never have made it without my faith in Jesus. If you lost your mom — or anyone else special in your life — remember that God still cares, and He wants to wipe away your tears. 

As Christians, we can look forward to an eternity where death and the grave are not only destroyed, but cast into a lake of fire. And that’s just the beginning of the joy to come! (Revelation 21:1-7)

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