The Hidden Grief on Mother’s Day

May 12, 2017 | For Women

As much as Mother’s Day is a celebration, for many the holiday brings sadness, pain, and loss. But Hallmark rarely produces cards expressing the difficult dynamic of Mother’s Day.

Let me explain.

Some of you experience grief on Mother’s Day as you remember your mom who has died and is no longer with you. Yet, others of you have the physical presence of your mom but the woman as you knew her may be gone due to Alzheimer’s, demential, or mental illness. This is one type of grief and sadness.

For many of you, Mother’s Day brings a loss of which you don’t often speak—the mom who abandoned, ignored, or was absent from you. For some, your mother was abusive. As a counselor, I’m aware of how many adults have this in their story. Your grief is different than any other. Mothers aren’t supposed to hurt or abandon their kids, choose addiction or a boyfriend over their kids. Yet, many do. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. It’s okay to not muster up feelings that aren’t there.

There are also other types of Mother’s Day grief.

Many of you have grief from the death of your child. There’s a hole in your heart that’s deep and tender, no matter how young or old you are. Your pain is multilayered and the idea of just “moving on” is the unwritten rule others put on you, even after years have passed. This pain also includes moms who have lost children at birth or through miscarriages. Your hurt is also real. No one knows the pain of losing a child to death except those who have experienced it. If this Mother’s Day is difficult for you, it’s okay to not be okay.

Another type of grief and loss that is different from any other. If you’re a mom whose kids are estranged, have addiction, mental illness, severe disabilities, or have turned away from your or your family, your Mother’s Day pain is the dull ache you carry with you even though you put the smile on your face and pretend everything’s okay. You long for that child to call, come home, be healthy, sober, or clean on this day of all days. Your heart may be broken in more ways than one.

Lastly, there are those of you whose dream of being a mom is the grief you carry. Whether because of miscarriage, infertility, medical conditions, abortion, or the family and marriage you longed for but didn’t materialize, Mother’s Day can be hard. Your loss is also real and it’s okay to grieve your broken dream.

If Mother’s Day finds you in one of these categories, we honor you. We honor your story and the pain, sadness, or loss that accompanies the mixed emotions on Mother’s Day. Give grace to yourself to not feel how others expect you to feel. Be gentle with yourself for the loss or sadness. We honor the road you walk in overcoming these losses.

This is the Hallmark card just for you. It’s okay for this day to not be okay. Your loss is not overlooked.

And you’re in good company with the rest of us. You are not alone.


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  1. Jean Anderson

    Thank you Brenda. I lost my mom twice – once to. Alzheimer’s & then to death. I lost a child & had a miscarriage. Although I have other children you don’t replace the ones taken from you. They remain in your heart. Mothers Day is bitter-sweet.

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      Jean, thank you for sharing. You have loss on both sides. Yes, each loss is significant. Blessings to you as you give yourself grace to grieve each one.

  2. Cathy Grannen

    Thank you for sharing these precious thoughts, Brenda. Many faces flashed before me as I read this. Many hearts are in pain and all comes rushing back to the surface at this time of celebrating. I will share with others?

    • Donna Holcomb

      Very thoughtful Brenda – I always struggle with what to preach on Mothers Day for all the reasons you listed here. It’s a very painful day for so many…. thank you for putting it to words

      • Brenda L. Yoder

        Thank you Donna. It is so hard to put into words, especially when the pain is so personal. Blessings sister!

    • Brenda L. Yoder

      Thank you Cathy. Blessings as you are a safe place for others.

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