Yesterday was Mother’s Day.
All in all, it was good. I called and talked with my mother and thanked her for being an awesome mom.
Over the weekend, my children and I celebrated who my wife is as a mom. On Friday, she and I got TWLOHA tattoos together. On Sunday, we enjoyed lunch and our daughter baked her a cake.
It was fun.
It was even fun at church watching all the families celebrate their mothers. As always, men and children were jokingly going around to other men and children wishing them a happy Mother’s day.
But as I sat and looked at people, I saw faces that were not happy.
I saw the faces of the people who are celebrating Mother’s Day, maybe for the first time, without their mother.
I saw the faces of mothers who are missing a child; maybe just a little bit more today than other days.
I saw the faces of the people who have tried to have children, only to learn it is not possible biologically.
I saw the faces of the women who have chosen abortion and they wonder how life would have been different had they chosen otherwise.
I saw the faces of the women who have chosen adoption and they wonder how life would have been different had they chosen otherwise.
I saw the faces of the people who have no relationship with their birth mothers and they are struggling with how to navigate the emotions of the day.
In the sea of joyful countenances, faces full of sorrow were trying not to drown.
Days of joy can be difficult to endure when your emotions are everything except joyful. And people who struggle through days of joy can often have an added burden to bear: they do not want their sorrow to take away from others’ celebration.
So many people will continue to suffer in silence. Because if I speak my sorrow on a day like today it may serve to dampen your happiness. And I don’t want to do that to you.
Those faces that I saw–the faces of the people trying not to drown–the last thing they want to do is pull you under with them. They want you to celebrate your mothers. They want you to celebrate your children.
But more than anything they want one more day with the loved one they are missing.
They want a broken relationship to be restored.
They want to celebrate, too.
Family is messy. It’s messy because by any definition, family has more than one person. And where two or more are gathered there will be issues. Because some will feel joy and some will feel sorrow and some will be angry and some will be content.
And we try to figure out how all of those can co-exist. Sometimes, we want our emotion to be the prevailing experience. Have you ever said, “Can’t you just be happy today?” Or maybe, “Don’t you realize what is going on? How can you laugh at a time like this?”
Other times, we want to make sure our emotional experience does not draw away from what the majority is feeling. Have you ever said, “I am fine,” when you are anything BUT fine?
Let us remember that it is possible to fully experience our own emotional reality while still being aware of the emotional reality of others.
If you suspect someone is hurting, be present with them. Don’t nag, but ask, “Are you okay right now?” An even better question is this, “Can I just sit with you for a little bit?”
Sometimes, the greatest, most powerful, most healing words are the ones that are unspoken.
Likewise, if you know you are feeling discouraged and you are in the midst of a whole lot of happy people, ask if they can share stories with you.
Sometimes, the greatest encouragement we can receive comes from witnessing others’ joy.
We will never all feel the same thing at the same time on the same day. But at least we can all be experiencing our emotions together.
Do not grieve without hope. The Voice translation of the Bible says, “…so that you will not be overwhelmed with grief like those who love outside of the true hope” (I Thessalonians 4:13b).
Do not be overwhelmed with grief. Some days, we feel like we are drowning. And that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for that. Feel it. Let the tears flow. Let the questions, accusations, and painful expressions of grief towards God roll off your tongue.
But remember hope. Look to those around you. If you can do nothing else, allow their joy to be the lifeline you cling to until you can feel joy again.