I took a quick glance down my row to painstakingly become aware that I would be the only woman of childbearing age, not standing. Another quick glance behind me, as well as in front of me, I determined the same. With my head held down and my fingers white-knuckled and intertwined, I braced myself for the moment when our pastor would ask all of the mothers and mothers-to-be to stand and be celebrated. Technically, I knew that I could. After all, I was a mother. Just 12 months before, after years of infertility and thousands of dollars spent on fertility treatments, I had finally seen those two pink lines I had prayed, pleaded, and begged for. Unfortunately, those two lines disappeared as the life within my womb stopped growing. Not many knew about this little person; therefore, if I were to stand, would they assume I was pregnant? I couldn’t handle the possibility of being congratulated as I left the church service that day, knowing congratulations were not in order; therefore, I remained seated. And alone. Like a leper; and an outcast, not part of the club that I so desperately wanted to join. But as the tears began to form and slowly fall, I realized my friend who sat next to me remained seated. She had two very important and significant reasons of her own to stand; they were of the ages two and not quite one. Yet despite her moment to shine, she chose to remain seated with me in the shadows. And together, there in the shadows, as she slowly grabbed my hand, I felt seen. I didn’t feel like that leper shoved to the side and forgotten.
The bible tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, but it also instructs us to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). This is why six years later, despite being able to stand through the way of adoption, I choose not to. It’s not because I don’t consider myself a mother due to my unconventional way of obtaining that title or because I don’t feel mothers should be honored in this way. I choose not to stand because I believe the greatest way to value, honor, and respect another person’s grief is to join in with them during their time of sadness. It is to sit with them, sometimes literally, and to say even without words, “I see you.” And not out of pity, but out of love. Grief is just a part of love. Love for life. Love for self. Love for others. And love for those dreams a person might feel is all but lost. Or, for some, stolen.
I realize you might feel as though what she is going through is not “grief worthy,” but it is. The bible treats childlessness as a devastating and true cut to the heart. Proverbs 30:15-16 lists barrenness right up there in the “top three” things that are never satisfied. Therefore, if God’s word validates her anguish, shouldn’t the church?
This Mother’s Day, don’t forget about the unseen. Sit with her. And if you don’t know who she is? Well, you might be able to recognize her by her head held down, her hands white-knuckled and intertwined together as she courageously unlocks them to wipe the tears from her eyes. Her grief is not terrifying or messy. Nor is it something we should encourage her to overcome, but rather something we need to help her tend. Therefore, let’s rejoice with those who rejoice this Sunday, but let’s also mourn with those who mourn.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. ~Matthew 5:4
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