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To the hurting, on Mother’s Day

After losing her daughter, one mom says 'grief and joy can hold hands.'

As Mother’s Day draws near, many are celebrating the joy of being a mother. Yet others find this day to be one that places a piercing spotlight on the brokenness of their heart.  

Those who know me know I love a party! I love to celebrate. However, I remember the agony I felt on that first Mother’s Day after my own daughter Jenny’s death.

Grief and joy can hold hands, even on Mother’s Day.

Her life had ended too soon. At just 31 years old, my healthy daughter got the flu (which we later learned was actually group A strep). Within three weeks, she went from strong, vibrant and healthy to dead. The infection became septic, eventually crossing the barrier into her brain and taking her life.

Walking out of that hospital room for the last time was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but I had to.

Beverly Ross with her daughter Jenny.

Beverly Ross with her daughter Jenny

The pain was still raw when Mother’s Day came. I wasn’t ready to celebrate without her, but that’s exactly what I had to do. I made a deal with myself — I would just show up in my own life and feel whatever came my way.

I chose to remember the joy I felt 31 years earlier celebrating my first Mother’s Day as Jenny’s mom. As I held my beautiful baby girl that Sunday, I felt like I had been ushered into a tightly knit club of women.

However, I noticed that not all the eyes were as bright as mine on that day. For many, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of what or who isn’t there. Some women sat alone. Their children didn’t come to visit that day. Others were used to sitting alone, their children, now grown, didn’t come to church at all, ever. They were struggling spiritually as their mother sat in the pew, praying for their return. Then there was the woman who never married, but dreamed she would someday find the right man. Yet, there she sat, alone. There was the woman who married later in life, beyond the childbearing age. And the woman who had struggled with infertility, praying that God would open her womb and questioning why he hadn’t. There was also the woman who had buried her child. She’s a friend whose pain I never knew I would someday know. The list could go on and on. These women had at times cried out to the Lord loudly and at other times sat with silent screams and tears.

Beverly Ross

Beverly Ross

“May the God of Hope fill you with all Joy and Peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 — this was Jenny’s life verse, and it has become “my” verse. Through my grief on this day that is intended for Joy, I set my eyes firmly on the living hope, the hope of Glory. I say Joy, with a capital “J,” because for me that “J” represents Jesus and the hope he gives.

On the day Jenny died, I turned to my husband and said, “You have got to remind me that what we believe is true.”

He looked at me and simply said, “The tomb is empty.”

“The tomb is empty,” and it’s that emptiness that fills me with so much Joy even in my grief and sorrow.

“The tomb is empty.”

I’m grateful now that Mother’s Day falls on a Sunday. As part of a fellowship that shares communion every week, I am, through tears, reminded of the tight connection that binds all broken-hearted people to the entrance of that empty tomb. It is with hope that we wait for the total fulfillment of all joy and peace. It is with hope we wait for the day our stones will one day be rolled away.

If Mother’s Day is hard for you, please give yourself permission to be wherever you are emotionally. Feel what you need to feel. Focus on Jesus and his resurrection power, his promise to redeem all pain. Open the eyes of your heart to glimpses of his joy and his peace that are within you. Joy and peace are not meant to overshadow or mask your grief, but they can give you the energy to carry the heavy weight of your pain.

Grief and joy can hold hands, even on Mother’s Day.

Beverly Ross is the founder and executive director of the Wise County Christian Counseling Center and Jenny’s Hope, a grief center started in honor of her daughter, Jenny, who died in February 2010. She and her husband, Rick, serve the Decatur Church of Christ in Texas. 

Filed under: 200 volunteers for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang Churches of Christ grief on Mother's Day In the Word Jenny's Hope Mother's Day Opinion Top Stories

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