For many, Mother’s Day no longer means the same thing it once did. Feelings of gratitude have turned to grief. Celebration is replaced with isolation.
For those who’ve lost a mother, today is difficult. And as if our grief isn’t difficult enough, soon social media will be filled with friends posting pictures of their mothers and sappy messages of appreciation. I’m not discouraging that, by the way. In fact, I love when I see people praising their mothers. Don’t ever stop loving on her, spoiling her, and supporting her. But it still stings for the motherless, and if you have a friend who has suffered the loss of their own beloved mom, don’t forget about them today. A simple text saying, “I’m thinking of you today. Love you,” is all it may take.
Big holidays, in general, are often a trigger for those in bereavement and can easily serve as a catalyst for the revival of anxiety and depression. Dealing with the loss of a loved one sometimes also means simultaneously struggling with the loss of the will to live, too. Initially, people go into survival mode during/directly after crises. This happened to me right after my mom died. I was back at school within two weeks, writing papers and taking my final exams. Not because I wasn’t affected by the trauma, but because I was. And I was fighting to survive. Psychology experts call the normal state of the brain learning mode. This is when we’re observing the world around us, taking in information and processing and extracting from it. After experiencing trauma, the brain shifts into survival mode and instead of responding positively to stimuli, the brain responds negatively. If left unchecked, the brain can stay in survival mode long after the traumatic event, and this has far-reaching consequences.
For me, that consequence was a developed apathy for life. Before grief, I had never once felt overwhelmed by the life before me. Of course, I went through difficult seasons and I was always eager to reunite with Jesus in Heaven, but I was content with life, too. That changed after my mom died and I struggled with finding motivation to continue living. I was not suicidal; I never thought of actually ending my life, but I just hated living. Even if I pictured the most perfect life I could possibly live in the future, I was completely disinterested. It wasn’t worth the inevitable pain. Even Job couldn’t make sense of all his pain and cried out, “I give up; I am tired of living.” (Job 7:16).
Some of us are depleted by the pain and suffering of this world. We’re mentally and emotionally exhausted. And rightfully so, there’s a lot of darkness on earth. I just didn’t want to be here any longer. Until I realized...I am still here. That means God still has a job for me here on earth. After all, He wasn’t created for my purpose, I was created for His. That’s profoundly humbling. Think about it, God created YOU with a mission that can only be accomplished by YOU. Let that sink in. The King of Kings has entrusted you with a purpose and a job to do here. It was after this reminder that I rediscovered my purpose. And purpose produces passion. Cognizant of my assignment from God, I experienced a renewal of passion for living.
So, what’s all this mean? Don’t live life seeking your own will. It will not be satisfying because eventually, you will experience a trial so unbearable that every earthly thing you’ve lived for will cease to merit motivation to live. Your fervor for life must come from a spiritual, eternal purpose that is unmovable in the face of the worst possible suffering. Remember this: the pain we will inevitably experience is only endurable when you realize you are here because God wants you here, at this specific moment in history, where you are in the world, born in the nation you were born in, and surrounded by the people you are surrounded by.
To those who’ve lost a mom, today is heavy. But take time to remember her. She was strong, wasn’t she? Witty? Wise? Honor that. But more importantly, honor her by committing to devote your life to God’s purpose. Serve Him. Worship Him. Love Him & love others. Only then will your soul stand resolute in fighting on through the trials and tribulations of this life.
Ashley Muse is a recent graduate from American University's School of International Service, where she earned a master's degree in U.S. foreign policy and national security. She is also an alumni of the Philos Leadership Institute 2017 program and currently serves as President of the Philos chapter in Washington, DC.