top of page

When Mother's Day Hurts

Updated: May 9

“Oh, no—May is here,” the woman muttered as she stared at her calendar. “That means Mother’s Day is coming,” she sighed. “It’s the worst day of the year for me.”

She shared that her daughter had been tragically killed in an auto accident many years prior. Although she has a son, Mother’s Day still triggers the sad reality that her daughter is gone.

For many women this day specifically designed for feminine springtime joy, often triggers grief, anger and tears instead. Here are a few reasons why:


Mothers Day is usually painful for the woman who deeply desires to have a child but cannot. My friend Cathie explains, “During our journey through infertility I wanted to escape on Mother’s Day. But then I quickly realized it was another mountain of grief for me to hike.”    

However, nothing prepared me for the wave of sorrow that struck as I entered the Hallmark store to buy cards for my family,” she continued. “The first tear welled up as I approached the Mother’s Day section. I quickly turned and walked away asking myself, ‘Can I put on a mask and muddle through the minimum requirements? Is this holiday forever destined to be a reminder of my defective body and our loss?"


Stepmoms often avoid church all together on Mother’s Day. Carla shares, The most torturous moment comes when the pastor asks all moms to stand so they can receive a round of applause, beaming smiles from their kids, and a flower from the usher. I sit there awkwardly wondering what I’m supposed to do,” She continued. “I’ve never given birth, but I fill the same role that a mom does. I do their laundry, make dinner, drive the carpool, and help with homework. A stepmom has all the stress, work, and financial burden of being a mom, but none of the perks or recognition.”

All it would take for this woman, and thousands like her, to enjoy church on Mother’s Day is for the pastor to say, “We know many women fill a mother-like role in a child’s life, so we want to include you in the celebration. This includes stepmoms, foster moms, adopting moms, etc.”

Below is a FREE downloadable booklet specific to stepmoms

Stepmom Mothers Day Guide
Download PDF • 18.42MB

Childless By Choice

A handful of women in our society are, “childless by choice.” The lack of children isn’t normally what triggers their pain on Mother’s Day; it’s the comments from those who don’t understand.

“I grew up in a very abusive, neglectful home. By the time I was thirteen I knew I never wanted to have children,” Janelle explained. “I didn’t want to bring another person into this hurting world. I couldn’t take that risk. Most women assume I don’t have kids because I’m self-centered or that I wanted a lofty career, but that’s totally untrue.” She proceeded, “It’s not that I didn’t want children, I actually think I would have been a great mom. People typically don’t understand my perspective, so I rarely share. My choice was putting aside what I wanted, for what I felt was best.”


Lest we forget, there are literally thousands of women who have had an abortion. For those who now regret that decision, Mother’s Day can be excruciating. It’s a prime time for the enemy of our soul to stir up guilt, shame, loneliness, humiliation and self loathing.

Our job is to point these women to the forgiveness and freedom that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. His perfect sacrifice offers compassion, forgiveness, redemption and grace.

Custody Battles

Recently,I met a woman who no longer has custody of her kids due to a divorce. She is devastated and overcome with guilt and shame. Her former husband remarried and now lives in a beautiful, lavish home. This mom lives in a small, cheap apartment.

She knows her kids prefer to be at Dad’s house, which is filled with toys and TVs. To this broken woman, Mother’s Day isn’t something to celebrate; it’s a megaphone that screams, “Failure.”


Whether it’s the death of your own mother or of a child, (or another person) Mother’s Day can be torture for the women who is no longer able to stroke the cheek of a loved one.

Even for those who anticipate a heavenly reunion—in the moment—death saps our joy and renders us into rubble.

I have a few friends who have lost a child to death. The pain of that unimaginable grief is severe and devastating. Many of those women can’t celebrate Mother’s Day anymore. It’s just too painful.

Abandonment or Abuse

We don’t like to think that a mother can, or would, harm her own child, but unfortunately it happens more than we would like to admit. Here are some of the women who struggle:

·      “I’ve come to accept that my mother does not have the ability to comfort or care for me. She’s so self-absorbed that she only sees things through her own eyes. I’ve attempted to discuss this with her in a compassionate way, but she immediately shuts down the conversation. She has no desire to understand how she hurts me.”

·      “My mom left us when we were very young. She reconnected with her high school sweetheart and left my dad, for this guy. Occasionally she reaches out and tries to reconnect but it’s always very brief, and usually for a selfish reason.

·      My mother used to beat us, especially when she was high. The memories I have of my mother aren’t good ones, and I don’t celebrate Mother’s Day at all. She’s the reason I have so many emotional issues. When I see cards, social posts or advertisements that talk about how a mother’s love is forever I feel sick to my stomach. If I never saw my mom again it would be okay with me.

Some of the common denominators and long term effects for the kids who have been abandoned by mom are:

·      Being unable to voice emotions about a mother's abandonment may be as damaging as the abandonment itself in the long run.

·      The adult left running the household often tries to normalize the mother's leaving and pressures the child or children to move on.

·      As an adult, an abandoned daughter may worry about telling her story, given the cultural pressure, the fear of being labeled, and shame.

·      As an adult, an abandoned daughter may worry about telling her story, given the cultural pressure, the fear of being labeled, and shame

·       The emotional conflicts an abandoned child feels carry into adulthood and include grief, pain, shame, anger, and more.[1]

Not every person has good thoughts, feelings, or memories about their mother. Each of us must process those emotions over time. It's soul deep wound.

God can give us the ability to forgive our mom if we ask Him to teach us how. This doesn’t mean what she did wasn’t painful or devastating. It doesn’t mean she should be trusted again. It means we are no longer holding onto the resentment that binds us to the pain. It means we release our mom to God. We let go of what she did.

After adopting a precious daughter, Cathie now shares, “I do not know if I will ever be completely joyous on Mother’s Day.  For I know there are mothers who are grieving, including my child’s birth mom.  Before assuming it is a good day, I look into the eyes of the women around me, especially at church.”

When you factor in foster moms, single parents, women who have a prodigal child and a whole host of other issues it’s easy to understand why Mother’s Day can be painful. This year why not take a moment and ask God to bring someone to mind who needs a special touch, card, gift, flower, or word of encouragement. You will never know how one act of kindness can change the day or the life of a wounded woman.

Copyright © 2024 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved

Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on relationships, stepfamilies, singles, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, The Smart Stepmom, co-authored with Ron Deal, and 101 Tips for The Smart Stepmom: Expert Advice From One Stepmom to Another. Her website is

237 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page