Since Mother's Day joy mingled with sadness is a major reality of my life, I had to learn ways for joy to take the bigger space in my heart.

Mother’s Day joy mingled with sadness is the reality I live with. Not just since my first child was born with medical special needs in 1982.

But for as long as I can remember.

The first sadness took place when my grandmother, Fern Stratton, died the year before I was born. Both my father and mother loved her dearly. Dad because his mom doted on him as the only child of older parents. Mom because she was treated as a daughter and basked in individual attention her own mother, who raised 8 children, couldn’t offer. My middle name is Fern, and every Mother’s Day I remember the stories my parents told of her and wish I had met her.

My dad was born during Mother’s Day weekend in 1928, and the convergence of his birthday and Mother’s Day led to a double sadness. The weekend always reminded us of the loss of Grandma Fern. Dad’s annual birthday celebration revealed his deteriorating physical and mental condition caused by multiple sclerosis.

The final sadness is related to Mother’s Day, 1982. My husband and I celebrated it with the joyful anticipation and wonderment of first time parents–hopes and dreams, boy or girl, bringing our baby home from the hospital–like all expectant parents. 2 weeks later our picture of life with baby changed when he was flown to a hospital 750 miles away for immediate surgery.

Even so, joy has become the overriding reality of Mother’s Day for me.

My reality may not be the same as yours this Mother’s Day. Your sadness may be new and raw. Your child’s diagnosis may be going from bad to worse. You may not be able to ease your child’s physical pain or your personal, emotional hurt. You may recently have lost your child. If one of those describes your reality this Mother’s Day, I am so sorry. I wish I could reach through the screen to hug you and cry with you. I can’t do that, but I can offer some reassurance.

Though at this moment you can’t imagine experiencing joy on Mother’s Day ever again, you will. Trust me, these suggestions can help you reach a new, more joyful reality.

Acknowledge your sadness.

Admit it’s real. Admit it hurts. Admit you wish it wasn’t. Those are true and good feelings after the loss you’ve experienced. They must be acknowledged, experienced, and processed in order to move on with life.

Affirm life.

Our God counts every life as precious. His measure of human worth is not determined by length of days, contributions to society, personal accomplishments, or any other worldly measure. His measure of worth is being. Each life is His creation.Though your child’s life isn’t what you anticipated, it is a life. Your child’s life makes you a mother, so affirm your life and your child’s as a gift from God.

Seek small joys.

My father loved to eat. He told my sister, brother, and me why ice cream was his favorite dessert. “It fills in the cracks,” he explained more than once with a twinkle in his eye and a smacking of lips. Small joys are like ice cream. They are the little things that melt our sad hearts and repair its broken, jagged edges. Things like:

  • Remembering the twinkle in Dad’s eye as he savored ice cream
  • Seeing Grandma’s first name on my birth certificate
  • Recalling how it felt to hold my son after he was born
  • Having the same color eyes as my dad and my son
  • Hearing people remark on my resemblance to my grandmother

These small joys led to a lifetime of Mother’s Day joy mingled with sadness. My small joys connect me to the people who gave me the gift of life to pass on to others. I pray that as you seek for small joys, the same will be true for you.

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