Be sensitive to those experiencing grief, sadness this Mother’s Day

By Denise George
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start the “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children. In May 1908 her unmarried daughter, Anna Jarvis, organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration to honor the sacrifices her mother and other mothers made for their children. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation to make Mother’s Day a national holiday to honor all mothers. Since then Americans have set aside the second Sunday each May to celebrate motherhood.

On May 14, Southern Baptist churches in Alabama and across the nation will celebrate Mother’s Day during worship services. Mothers will be recognized, asked to stand and receive applause, presented with fresh flowers and honored in a glowing and complimentary sermon. Surrounded by loving families, mothers will be thanked for their hard work in rearing children; their strong devotion to family; their loving spiritual guidance, nurture and prayers; and commended for teaching their children biblical values. For most mothers, Mother’s Day is a highly anticipated and wonderful day of celebration, joy, cards, chocolate and flowers.

But for others in the congregation, like Jackie and her husband, Mother’s Day might be a painful time.

The couple is infertile. They have tried for years without success to have children. On Mother’s Day, they will go to church but sit silently in the pew feeling sad, frustrated and left out. Several well-meaning church members will probably pat their shoulders and say things like: “Are you ever planning to have children?” or “You know your biological ‘clock’ is ticking.” Others more sensitive to their pain will tell them to “just relax” or “be patient.” “It will happen in God’s good time,” they might say.

Sheila’s mother died recently after a long struggle with cancer. Sheila is still numb with deep grief. After the Mother’s Day church service, Sheila will go home and cry.

Another Christian couple in the congregation just buried their newborn. The grieving couple will decide to skip the church worship service this year and spend Mother’s Day at home. They believe that attending church on this particular Sunday will be far too painful.

Others will sit quietly in the congregation during the Mother’s Day service. They may smile and applaud the honored mothers but inside they feel sadness and pain. Some of these women are suffering from recent miscarriages, have lost babies to SUID (Sudden Unexpected Infant Death), are struggling with the pain and guilt of abortion or are dealing with an unmarried teenage daughter’s unplanned pregnancy. Others are grieving wayward, drug-addicted and/or imprisoned children; babies/grandbabies given up for adoption; or are remembering an unhappy childhood with an unloving or abusive mother.

On Mother’s Day this year, how can churches celebrate and honor the congregation’s hard-working, nurturing mothers who bring up godly children and, at the same time, recognize and respond sensitively to those in the worship service who are hurting and grieving?

How the Church can respond

• During the service, without publicly recognizing the individuals, have a special prayer time for the hurting women and couples in your congregation, including:
• infertile couples
• those who have miscarried a child
• couples who have birthed a stillborn baby or lost a child to SUID
• couples whose children of varying ages have died
• those who have recently lost a mother to death
• mothers of wayward, runaway or unchurched and lost children
• mothers of unmarried teens with unintended pregnancies
• mothers who have chosen to give their child up for adoption
• divorced mothers currently in child custody battles
• women who suffer the guilt and pain of an abortion
• those who grew up with abusive or neglectful mothers
• caregivers who are struggling to care for an aging or mentally-ill mother

• Encourage members of the congregation to remember hurting women by sending them cards, letters or emails offering inspiring messages such as “I’m praying for this” or “I’m thinking of you.”

• As a church, Bible study class or individual, send flowers to mothers who have just lost a child or mother.

• Be aware of hurting mothers and couples in the congregation and be sensitive in your conversations with them.

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Infertility in the United States
Infertility is a disease that results in the abnormal functioning of the male or female reproductive system. Did you know that infertility affects 6.1 million American couples? Approximately 10 percent of American couples cannot have children. One in every 8 couples (or 12 percent of married women) has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy.

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Unintended Teenage Pregnancies
More than 750,000 American teens become pregnant each year. Eighty-two percent of these pregnancies are unintended. Two to 5 percent of unmarried pregnant teens choose adoption as an option.

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