Bring the Invisible Grief of Mother’s Day out of the Shadows | #HonorAllMoms

Sarah Philpott, PhD

Where I grew up, my church celebrated Mother’s Day in a big way. As a child, I’d sit alongside my family in the wooden pew, mesmerized by the amount of fresh flower arrangements that crowded the floor of our sanctuary. Roses, peonies, and spring blooms sat ready to be awarded to the ladies of my small southern Baptist church.


After we sang a song from the hymnal, us kids were always called to the front to retrieve a single rose from a basket and told to hand the bloom to our beaming mothers, grandmothers, & aunts.


Then Ms. Nita, a matriarch of our community, took center stage wearing one of her beautiful pastel dresses.


I can still see her radiant smile peeking out from under the floppy white hat she chose to wear on Mother’s Day. “Would all the Mother’s please stand” she’d say.


I loved watching my own mother and grandmother rise and stand amongst all the women of my community.


But what I really looked forward to was finding out who was the oldest mom and who was the youngest mom. You see, the biggest rose & peony bouquets were awarded to women who met certain criteria.



It wasn’t until I was an adult, sitting in church fresh from the heartache of my second miscarriage, that I realized how many women actually had hurting hearts on Mother’s Day.


I recollected how growing up, the mother with the most living children was awarded one of the biggest and most beautiful bouquets. The congregation always erupted in applause for this dear soul who had her hands full.


But now, with two of my own children in Heaven and one in the church nursery, it struck me as an odd banner of honor.


For if anyone deserved a flower arrangement on Mother’s Day it was the sweet women who had endured the death of her own children.


I realized that beneath smiles, many women silently mourned the first Sunday in May.


I instantly thought of my mother-in-law.   She has five children. But only three are living. Jesse died at the age of two and Lauren at the age of twenty.


Then I thought of my mother. She has three children. But only two of us are living. A gravestone in the church cemetery only marks one tiny soul, who was stillborn at 7.5 months gestation.


The face of a friend, who wanted nothing more to be a mother, also came to my mind. Infertility had robbed her of the chance of becoming a mother and finances had prevented her from adopting.


Miscarriage. Stillbirth. Infant death. Fatal childhood disease. Teenage accidents. Young adult travesties. Suicide. The list continues.


My own grief had opened my eyes to the invisible grief that many women bear on Mother’s Day.


We often forget these brave women, don’t we?


But we shouldn’t.


Mother’s Day is still one of my favorite days of the year, and I believe it should be celebrated with unbridled jubilation, breakfast in bed, and homemade cards.


And I love how, at Ms. Nita’s gentle encouragement, my childhood church always collectively gave a big applause to mothers. It’s one of my favorite memories of growing up in the south.


But I think we should expand our celebration of this day by showering love and showing support to all mothers- including those who view Mother’s Day as a stark reminder of what doesn’t exist.


Each year, in the United States alone, 1 in 160 deliveries in stillbirth, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, 3,500 babies under the age of 1 die, and 1 in 8 couples experience infertility.


I think we should honor these women, too.


Will you join me? Let’s #HonorAllMoms this Mother’s Day.


Give a hug, a bouquet of flowers, a text or a call to the lovely ladies who have endured an unspeakable loss.


Let’s also encourage our places of worship to light a candle or display a beautiful bouquet in honor of all the moms who have children who have passed from this life.


Because, no matter how brief the existence, all these women had a precious child that lived.


And this, too, should be celebrated.

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mom, farmer's wife, christian, writer, dreamer, schemer: cultivating a life of down-home simplicity.